What is the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist?

Ophthalmologists and optometrists are both involved with the examination of healthy eyes and the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases.

An ophthalmologist – or Eye M.D. –

is a medical doctor who is specialized in eye and vision care. In order to become an ophthalmologist, acquisition of a medical degree is necessary following the completion of college. After four years of medical school and a year of internship, every ophthalmologist spends a minimum of three years in a university medical center and hospital-based residency specializing in ophthalmology. During residency, the Eye M.D. receives special training in all aspects of eye care, including prevention, diagnosis, and medical and surgical treatment of eye conditions and diseases.

Having completed medical school, ophthalmologists are often more aware of how different diseases may affect the eye and how different findings noted during an eye examination may indicate serious disease elsewhere in the body. In addition, ophthalmologists have an understanding of how medications prescribed by other physicians can cause unintentional side effects to the eye and how ocular medications can affect the rest of the body or may interfere with other health conditions. An Eye M.D. can deliver total eye care, including performing a complete eye examination, prescribing eyeglasses, diagnosing and treating eye diseases, and performing surgery on the eyes and the area around the eye.

An optometrist –

is a Doctor of Optometry, an O.D. (not to be confused with a Doctor of Medicine, an M.D.). To become an optometrist, one must complete pre-professional undergraduate college education followed by four years of professional education in a college of optometry. In optometric school, the student receives education primarily about the eyes and does not receive a comprehensive education regarding the rest of the body and systemic disease processes. The graduate is then eligible to become licensed by a state as an optometrist. Some optometrists also do further postgraduate residency in a subspecialty of optometry such as low vision rehabilitation, primary eye care, geriatric optometry, pediatric optometry, family eye care, contact lenses, sports vision, or vision therapy.

Optometrists are licensed by the individual states to practice optometry, just as physicians are licensed to practice medicine by the individual states. Optometrists can perform an eye examination and can determine the presence of vision-related problems. They can also prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. Depending on the state in which they practice, optometrists may be allowed to treat eye diseases and prescribe eye drops for various conditions, but they are not trained or licensed to perform surgery in an operating room.

What does it mean to be “board certified?”

Dr. Cain has been board certified by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. This organization certifies doctors and surgeons who demonstrate the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to deliver high standards of patient care. A physician must pass both written and oral exams to be board certified. Not all doctors earn this certification.

What to expect if you are a new patient

A complete exam takes time and your eyes will be dilated. Dilation may blur your vision and make your eyes sensitive to light. You should not plan too many activities for that day. Also, you may want to arrange for someone to drive you home.


What about glasses?

Dr. Cain can check your vision to see if glasses are needed or if your current glasses need to be changed. This procedure is called “refraction.” If you do need glasses or a change to your glasses, he will write a prescription for you.

What about contact lenses?

Dr. Cain does not prescribe or fit contact lenses.

Do I pay the full amount at my appointment?

Co-pays and deductibles are due at the time of your visit.
Accepted forms of payment: Cash, Checks, VISA, MasterCard and Discover Card

Are there any forms I can fill out before I come?

Whether you are a new patient or an existing patient and have not recently updated your medical information with us, we encourage you to download the Patient Medical History form (pdf) to fill out at home and to bring with you to your appointment. This helps save you time. Of course, if you need assistance in completing the form, we will be happy to help you when you are here.

What should I bring to my appointment?

  • Insurance card
  • Photo ID
  • List of all medications and over the counter drugs you currently take.
  • If you wear glasses, please bring your current pair.

What insurance do you accept?

  • Medicare patients welcome
  • We file on most medical insurance plans.
  • We file on Southland and GE Vision plans.
  • If your diagnosis is not medical in nature and if vision insurance is included in your medical coverage, we will file on that for you (i.e. BCBS, UHC).


Do I have to be referred by a doctor?

No referral is necessary. You may call us directly for an appointment.

How do I make an appointment?

Call 256-355-1726 during office hours:

Monday 8:00 A.M.- 4:30 P.M.
Tuesday 8:00 A.M.- 4:30 P.M.
Wednesday 8:00 A.M.- 12:00 P.M.
Thursday 8:00 A.M.- 4:30 P.M.
Friday 8:00 A.M.-12:00 P.M.

Where is your office?

Dr. Dr. Cain’s office is conveniently located at the Decatur Laser Eye Center at 1238 13th Avenue SE, Decatur, AL 35601.

Located near Decatur Morgan Hospital, our office has its own convenient parking lot with close, easy access for our patients with mobility issues.