While the thought of a breathing mask to control snoring will delight many sleeping partners across the world who struggle to get enough shut-eye due to unwanted noise levels at night, those with diabetes who suffer from reduced visual problems, as a result, may be intrigued to hear that the method may also inadvertently improve eyesight.
How the Mask Works
The mask is called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device which is worn during the night and covers the nose and mouth areas, with the initial intention to use the tool in people with obstructive sleep apnoea, a condition which partially blocks the airways and interrupts breathing during sleep by overly relaxing muscles and soft tissues in the throat, causing loud snoring amongst labored breathing sounds.
The mask works to prevent these problems by forcing compressed air into the airway to keep it open, preventing instances during a night’s sleep of alternating between deep and light sleep or even fully waking. Devices such as this allow people to suffer from sleep apnoea to operate in a deep sleep phase for the desire 20-25% of the seven to eight hours of sleep grown adults require for competent brain and bodily function.
Scientists now believe that the same technique can be applied to those with diabetic retinopathy, an additional symptom in people with diabetes whereby the increases in blood sugar levels seen in the condition have caused light-sensitive cells in the retina to become damaged, leading to blockages or leaking of blood vessels and deterioration of sight. It is believed that 40% of those with type 1 diabetes are likely to experience retinopathy. At the same time, the prevalence is still 20% in the type 2 form of the condition, meaning hundreds of thousands of Britain’s are affected at any one time.
A trial conducted by researchers on 35 patients at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford has determined that regular use of those with diabetic retinopathy during six months of use sees significant improvements insight when suffering from the condition. It is thought that the mask reduces blood pressure by promoting oxygen levels in the blood during use, of which blood pressure is a primary factor of accelerated damage to the eye in diabetic-related retinopathy.
What this means for the Future
Interesting links were found in the study, which suggests that people with diabetes are of higher risk of sleep apnoea than the rest of society, leading to speculation that heavy snoring in diabetics may be an indicator of potential eye problems.
Further research with a larger sample size and lengthier time span are to be conducted in Newcastle to further analyze the theories found, aiming to contrast diabetics who wear the mask with those who remain on standard medication currently used to treat the disease and could lead to further findings of why diabetics suffer from specific symptoms experienced in the condition, potentially offering a cheap alternative to medication therapy when treating symptoms of the disease.