Flintshire diabetic hopes pioneering mask can save his sight
Paul Pritchard, who lives in Nannerch, is one of the first patients using the new sleep mask to stave off the risk of blindness caused by Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) – when damage occurs to the retina due to diabetes.
After 20 years of being diagnosed with diabetes, nearly all patients with type one and 60 per cent of patients with type two diabetes will have some degree of retinopathy – which can eventually lead to blindness.
But Mr Pritchard, 57, is hoping a mask harnessing the power of organic light-emitting diodes can help him retain his vision.
Mr Pritchard said: “Being told you have diabetes and that it could lead to you
losing your sight is scary because it would mean losing a big part of your freedom.
“When my eyes started to deteriorate, I had laser surgery and also injections into my eye which was the most horrendous thing I have ever gone through.
“To have this alternative, which could stop further eye damage, is a huge relief. My eye specialist has already said he has noticed an improvement.”
The former sales rep was first diagnosed with diabetes aged 14.
He has type one diabetes, where the body is unable to produce insulin.
Living in the USA when he was diagnosed, Mr Pritchard spent time in diabetes education sessions before being discharged from hospital.
“Back in those days, diabetes care was very different,” Mr Pritchard said. “You had a very rigid routine where you had to do the same thing at the same time every day.
“Things moved on in the early ‘80s when you got two insulin injections a day.
Now I have multiple injections but I’m due to move to an insulin pump.
“Having diabetes is a tough old road to run along but the toughest thing is the effect it has on my wife, Diane.
“She worries so much about me.”
DR occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the cells in the retina.
During the night, as the eye adapts to the dark, it goes into a hypoxic state – meaning it lacks oxygen.
Under normal circumstances, the eye can cope. But in patients with diabetes the demand for oxygen grows, leading to increased blood flow, bleeds and leakage of fluid in the eye.
In the worst cases, this can cause blindness.
The Noctura 400 Sleep Masksleep mask, being trialled by the NHS across the UK, harnesses the power of organic light-emitting diodes. It can be used at all stages through the progression of the disease, as well as a preventative care treatment.
The mask is designed to be worn by the patient at night while they sleep.
It emits a low level green light to reduce the eyes’ need for oxygen and stop damage from occurring.
“Even if it doesn’t noticeably improve my condition, it should in theory keep it at where it is now,” Mr Pritchard added.