News and Media

Diabetic patient’s at risk of blindness pins hopes on revolutionary Noctura 400 Sleep Mask

Barbara Parfitt is one of the first patients using the Noctura 400 Sleep Mask.

The former nurse, 59, is at risk of blindness because she suffers from Diabetic Retinopathy (DR). There are 3.5million people in the UK with diabetes, and this number is growing rapidly.

After 20 years of being diagnosed with diabetes, nearly all patients with Type 1 and 60% of patients with Type 2 diabetes will have some degree of retinopathy.

During the night, as the eye adapts to the dark, it requires more oxygen than it does in the daytime. In patients with diabetes, who have blood circulation problems, this need for extra oxygen cannot be met and their retina begins to suffer the effects of a severe lack of oxygen. The body’s response is to grow new blood vessels, however these new vessels are weak, prone to bleeding and leakage of fluid in the eye. In the worst cases, this can cause blindness.

PolyPhotonix’s chosen charity is the UK’s main eye research charity, Fight for Sight. The charity has a current commitment of £1.2m for diabetic retinopathy research.

Fight for Sight is excited to partner with PolyPhotonix, who will donate 5% of all revenues from private UK sales of the Noctura 400 to the charity.

Dr Dolores Conroy, Director of Research at Fight for Sight said: “We are funding a number of innovative research projects in diabetic retinopathy. These will help to further our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the disease and to develop new treatments, in particular the potential of vascular stem cells to repair the blood vessel damage caused by high blood glucose.”

Traditional treatments involve laser surgery or invasive injections into the eye, and are usually only offered when a patient’s eye condition deteriorates.

But, the new sleep mask, which harnesses the power of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), can be used at all stages through the progression of the disease. It can also be used as a preventative care treatment.

The mask is designed to be worn by the patient at night while they sleep and it emits a low level green light to reduce the eyes’ need for oxygen and stop damage from occurring.

Barbara already has hearing loss as a result of her diabetes and feared losing her sight as well.

She said: “The sleep mask gave me hope at a very bad time. I had worried about losing vision and not being able to drive or even read a book. You naturally have fears about that loss of freedom.

“Since starting to wear the sleep mask, my optician has noticed that both eyes have improved. It’s given me hope that the deterioration in my eyes has been arrested.”

Barbara, from Great Horkesley, near Colchester, Essex, gave up work as a nurse after she and her husband Bob sadly lost their 11-year-old son James when he suffered Aortic Valve Synopsis.

She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, where the body is unable to produce insulin, 30 years ago.

Barbara explained: “I had been feeling very unwell and I was a nurse, so I knew exactly what it was, but I didn’t want to hear the diagnosis.”

When she was first diagnosed, Barbara had to inject insulin morning and night, along with eating carbohydrates at a certain time of day. She now has an insulin pen, which has given her more lifestyle freedom.

Barbara is already hearing-aid dependent and was diagnosed with DR five years ago. “My consultants said if my eye condition did worsen, the damage already done was too close to the optic nerve, so they would only inject if they really had to.

“When you go for check-ups as a diabetic, you’re told to improve your lifestyle to improve your control of the condition and stop it deteriorating. But, I was already doing everything right. I have a good diet, I walk 20 miles a week and I check my blood sugar.

“My fear was that I was already doing everything I could to help myself and my eyes were still getting worse. To have this preventative treatment, which could stop further eye damage, is a huge relief.”

Noctura 400 is currently being trialled by the NHS across the UK, as well as being prescribed by selected opticians.

The sleep mask has won numerous awards, including a Bright Ideas in Health Award, which is given to innovations which are making a difference within the NHS.

Richard Kirk, CEO of makers PolyPhotonix, said: “The Noctura 400 Sleep Mask has completed a number of clinical trials successfully to gain CE certification, demonstrating that it is safe and it works.”

Read the Clacton Gazette’s coverage of this story →