Mask that shines green light on the eyes of patients while they sleep helps prevent diabetic blindness – The Mail on Sunday
By Anthea Gerrie for The Mail on Sunday
A mask that prevents diabetic blindness by shining green light on the eyes while the patient sleeps is to be offered at a leading high street chemist from next week.
The Noctura 400 is the only treatment available to those in the early stages of the conditions that cause vision problems in almost all type 1 and 67 per cent of type 2 diabetics, known as diabetic retinopathy and macular oedema.
And studies have shown an impressive success rate. ‘Trials carried out on 134 patients in the UK and Czech Republic show the Noctura 400 works for two out of three patients who wear the mask while they sleep,’ said Ian Grierson, emeritus professor of ophthalmology at Liverpool University. ‘But what makes it potentially a huge breakthrough is that this gives us something for those in the earliest stages of disease, capable of halting progression and the need for late-stage invasive treatment.’
Only patients whose retinas show significant deterioration are currently offered treatment, Prof Grierson added.
The light from the mask reduces the retina’s need for oxygen and prevents formation of excess blood vessels which can grow in the back of the eye and threaten the vision.
Until now, diabetic retinopathy has been treated with lasers, which can help to seal broken blood vessels and destroy damaged ones. But three per cent of patients experience some loss of peripheral vision and more than half will have some difficulty with night vision. In about a third of patients, the treatment will not work at all.
More than a million UK diabetics are candidates for the new mask, which will be dispensed by optometrists working with Lloyds Pharmacy. It costs £250 and its components last for 12 weeks, after which time it has to be replaced, at the patient’s expense.
The mask is worn every night, and indefinitely to keep the retinopathy at bay.
‘Six months is a reasonable amount of time to judge whether it is working,’ says Richard Kirk, CEO of PolyPhotonix, who invented the mask.
The NHS, which spends £10 billion per year treating diabetics, has been the biggest funder of the trials. It is yet to be approved by rationing watchdog the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
Longer-term trials on a further 300 patients are in progress.
Father-of-three Neil Walker, 40, has seen the first improvement in his condition since being diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy four years ago.
When Neil’s wife heard about a pilot dispensation of the mask by an optician in Darlington, he opted to travel hundreds of miles from his home in Kent to try it at full cost. He is now on his fifth mask.
He says: ‘At less than £3 a day, there is no question that it’s great value. Sight is priceless.’