Optometric Physician Dr. Charles Allen Treats Patients of All Ages, Including Infants
CLEAR VISION: “In my practice, I see patients of all ages, and focus on three specific areas: children, glaucoma, and specialty contact lenses.“ An optometric physician (optometrist), Dr. Charles Allen, O.D., F.A.A.O. often consults and lectures on these vision conditions. He will attend a meeting In New York in April regarding the development of myopia in children.
“On a clear day, rise and look around you …
“How it will astound you …
“On a clear day, you can see forever …
“And ever … and ever ….”
As the song suggests seeing everything clearly can make all the difference. For many people, wearing glasses or contact lenses makes this possible. Others may be fortunate enough to see clearly without the aid of glasses, and still others, especially children, may not even be aware they are not seeing clearly.
It is the mission of optometric physician (optometrist) Dr. Charles Allen, O.D., F.A.A.O. of Princeton Eyecare Associates to help his patients see as well as possible. His practice is located at Princeton Professional Park, 601 Ewing Street, and he treats patients of all ages.
A graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Dr. Allen was a former assistant professor of Pediatric Optometry at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in Philadelphia. He has practiced in Princeton since 1972.
In addition to prescribing corrective lenses, he explains that “an optometric physician can diagnose and treat eye disease and ocular manifestations of systemic disease. Eye examinations can detect many diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, arterial sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Lyme disease, among many others.”
In his practice, Dr. Allen focuses on three areas of specialization: (1) children, including “developmental problems, especially children labeled as dyslexic and ADD/ADHD. The problem can actually be physical and functional;” (2) glaucoma, and (3) specialty contact lenses.
He has lectured nationally and internationally on the subjects of developmental vision of children, glaucoma, and contact lenses. He is skilled in determining the correct contact lens for the patient and fitting it properly. “I have been able to provide lenses, including bifocals and for astigmatism, to anyone, and also to those people who have been told they cannot wear contact lenses,” he points out. “The youngest patient I ever put contacts on was six days old. The baby was born with congenital cataracts.”
Dr. Allen’s expertise in diagnosing and treating glaucoma has provided him with “one of the largest glaucoma practices of optometric physicians in New Jersey,” he notes. “90 percent of my glaucoma patients can be successfully treated with topical drugs.” He has also participated in glaucoma programs in Pennsylvania and New York.
Dr. Allen was recently selected as one of 100 contact lens specialists in the U.S. to participate in a meeting in Boston, sponsored by Bausch & Lomb Contact Lens Company, which focused on the current level of development of contact lenses for the treatment of various vision disorders. For many years, he has served as a consultant and clinical investigator for lens companies and pharmaceutical companies that develop treatments which are used in conjunction with the prescribing of contact lenses for a number of vision problems.
The meeting included discussion on new materials and designs of contact lenses for all vision disorders, including myopia (near-sightedness) and presbyopia (far-sightedness). Of interest to people who are dissatisfied with progressive multifocal glasses, there were also discussions on new contact lens designs to provide greater fields of vision for their users, making them especially desirable for people who spend many hours a day looking at a computer screen.
Particularly interesting to Dr. Allen was the introduction of contact lenses for the treatment of myopia, which has reached epidemic proportions in the world, he reports. A National Eye Institute study has showed that the prevalence of myopia increased 66 percent in the last 40 years. This closely parallels the development and use of computers and the hand-held devices so popular among children, points out Dr. Allen. The greatest incidence is reported in young children and young adults between ages 20 and 39. In one 10-year period, the rate of myopia rose from 25 percent to 41.6 percent. In Singapore, it has been reported that the incidence of myopia among school age children is between 80 and 96 percent.
With the rapid progression of myopia throughout the world, studies have been implemented in an attempt to find a treatment procedure to slow down the progression of this condition. Large patient-based studies are being carried out to identify a treatment modality to effect control over the progression of myopia, reports Dr. Allen. “Two have shown promise in having an important influence. One is a specially-designed soft contact lens, which was discussed at the Boston meeting. This soft multifocal lens has been shown to retard the rate of progression of myopia. These lenses are worn during the day and removed at bedtime.
“The second treatment is the use of corneal reshaping therapy, also known as orthokeratology. This lens is applied at bedtime and removed in the morning, providing the person with functional vision throughout the day without the need for glasses or a contact lens.”
It is often his youngest patients who are in the forefront of Dr. Allen’s concern. He is a strong advocate of early eye examinations for children, even starting at the age of six months.
“It is important for parents to get their children a comprehensive evaluation of their vision even at six months,” he explains. “Six months is a good time for their first check-up, and definitely by nine months. By then, everything to do with the eye should be working. Unlike hearing, which is usually fully developed at birth, vision is rudimentary. The visual system undergoes significant developmental changes in the early years of life, especially during infancy and the toddler ages.”
Dr. Allen is concerned that not enough children are examined early, often waiting until they go to school. “One of the biggest frustrations in my practice is that the general population in the U.S. ignores the role of vision in children as it relates to the ability to learn to read. Although vision disorders are the fourth most common disability in the U.S., only 14 percent of pre-school kids will have had their eyes examined by an eye doctor before they go to school. Yet, 70 percent will have been to a dentist. But the primary modality for learning is through vision, not the oral cavity.
“It has been estimated that 80 percent of learning is acquired through the visual system,” he continues. “The benefits of early diagnosis and treatment of developmental vision problems can improve motor, cognitive, and social development.”
Dr. Allen cites reports from the National Eye Institute, the American Public Health Association, and the Vision Council of America, indicating that “visual impairment in a child is associated with developmental delays and the need for special education, vocational, and social services into adulthood,” also, “that 25 percent of students in grades K through six have visual impairments that are serious enough to impede learning,” and that “it is estimated that 80 percent of children with a learning disability have an undiagnosed vision problem.
“Sometimes, children are diagnosed with ADD, when in fact, they have vision problems,” he adds.
Regarding the dramatic increase in myopia among children and its connection to computer use, Dr. Allen suggests looking away from the screen or device and taking regular breaks.
“I believe in the ‘20-20 Rule’. Every 20 minutes, look away at something 20 feet in the distance (outside the window perhaps) for 20 seconds. Also, getting more exercise is helpful. The eyes don’t have the motor ability to stay in the same position without changing focus. In evolution, the eyes moved a lot, looking into the distance, not just focusing on one point.
“Diet, exercise, and sports goggles are all important for kids’ eye health,” he continues. “But with all the advantages in science and health, it is so important for children to have their eyes examined before they go to school. Parents should place at top priority an examination of the ocular health and vision of their child to ensure that they have the visual skills necessary to learn to read. If there is a defect undetected, then they might not be able to read in order to learn.”
It is not just seeing something, he adds. “It is vision that brings meaning to what you see. My greatest satisfaction is helping my patients’ vision improve.”
And for all his patients, he has a reminder. “Call me at any time if your eye does not look right, it doesn’t feel right, or your vision is not the same. Too many people delay getting treatment. Call me right away.
“Practicing in this community is a privilege and a dream. My patients are from all walks of life, and helping them is always my most important priority.”
Dr. Allen can be reached at (609) 924-3567 (office) or (609) 947-5533 (cell).