NORTH-East patients who have a sight-threatening condition known as diabetic retinopathy are being invited to a meeting to explain details of a revolutionary new form of treatment.

Earlier this year The Northern Echo exclusively revealed that Sedgefield-based hi-tech company Polyphotonix was trialling a new way of treating diabetic retinopathy, a condition which affects most people with type one diabetes and can cause blindness.

Unlike the invasive current treatments for this condition - which include laser treatment and injections into the eyes – the new treatment consists of patients regularly wearing a light-emitting mask while they sleep.

Already proven to work the Noctura 400 sleep mask is currently being trialled by more than 600 diabetic retinopathy patients at hospitals across the UK.

Polyphotonix is confident that the sleep mask will be approved for use on the NHS by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in the next 18 months or so but until that happens a small number of North-East patients are being given the chance to sign up to be treated with the sleep mask on a private basis.

Richard Kirk, chief executive, of Polyphotonix said: “Local people have the opportunity to be some of the first in the world to sign up for this treatment on a private basis. Hopefully it will be commonplace in a year’s time.”

The demonstration meeting at Teesside University’s Darlington campus, in Vicarage Road, Darlington, at 6.30pm on Wednesday, October 1 will include a short presentation by Mr Kirk about the science involved in the sleep mask.

They will also hear first hand from one of the first patients in the world to benefit from the sleep mask.

Diabetic retinopathy patient Lorraine Helliwell, 55, from near Longframlington, Northumberland, will explain how wearing a light-emitting sleep mask for six weeks made such an impact on her eye disease that her hospital eye consultant discharged her from his care.

The Darlington meeting follows an earlier demonstration meeting at the home of Polyphotonix, NETPark, on the outskirts of Sedgefield.

A number of patients who attended that first meeting have now been issued with their sleep masks and are being monitored by the Wade chain of opticians, which have been chosen by Polyphotonix as business partners.

To reserve a place ring 01740-625763 or send an email to