Despite her background as a registered nurse, Judy Heimann was stumped when her first signs of rosacea appeared about 12 years ago.
"I had redness and stinging, but I also had small fluid-filled sacs hanging from my cheeks," said Judy, who is now in her mid-50s and works in the insurance industry in New York. "I thought I had herpes zoster or some contagious disease."
Alarmed, she went to her dermatologist, who immediately calmed her fears and told her she had a classic case of rosacea. He prescribed a short-term course of oral medication as well as a twice-a-day dose of a topical therapy.
Over the years, Judy has been able to reduce her topical applications to once a day. But she noted that if she stops using her topical therapy for even a few days, purplish spots the size of a nickel will quickly appear on her cheeks.
Judy also is well aware of her personal triggers -- "a hot kitchen with multiple pots going on the stove, drinking hot beverages and some wines" -- and makes every effort to avoid them.
In addition, she said she is able to use mineral makeup to effectively cover her redness so no one is able to tell she has rosacea. "I like makeup and I use a lot of it, but this is very light and sheer," she said. "I used to be terribly embarrassed about going out, but not anymore."
No one else in Judy's family has been diagnosed with rosacea, but she wonders if family vacations in the Caribbean when she was younger and days spent sunbathing on the Jersey shore before sunscreen was popular might have contributed to the condition. "I've had a few blistering sunburns in my day," she said.
Because Judy keeps her rosacea under such good control, it's not often the topic of conversation. But she is now very emphatic about getting the word out, particularly to young girls, about the importance of sunscreen.