When your eyeglasses are fitting properly and comfortably, you may not give them much thought. But if they’re crooked, slide down your nose, or are otherwise in need of adjustment, they quickly become a real annoyance.
Knowing how to adjust glasses effectively and without making a problem worse can save you the time and trouble of taking them to an optical shop or mailing them back to the manufacturer or seller.
Having an inexpensive eyeglass repair kit at home and exercising some patience in adjusting the temples or nose pads will make the whole process easier. But keep in mind, there are times when the wiser and safer choice is to leave the adjustments to the professionals.
Before making any adjustments on your own, take a moment to see how your glasses fit, so you have a better idea of what needs to be done. Look straight into a mirror and see which temple is out of place or how the nose pads are affecting the position of the glasses on your face.
The State University of New York College of Optometry recommends that the top of the rim should not be above the eyebrow. It shouldn’t rest too low, either, in part so the frames look good, but primarily so that the eyes are centered behind the lenses.
Once you have a good idea of how your glasses should look, you can set about to make some minor repairs at home.
In most cases, glasses rest crookedly because one of the temples (also called arms) is angled too low or too high from the rim or has become bent so they no longer extend straight back to rest on the ear.
To determine how much a temple needs to be angled upward or downward, set your glasses down so that the bottom of the rims sit evenly on a flat surface. If the end of a temple doesn’t touch the surface, it needs to be bent downward. If one of the rims is elevated off the table, the opposite temple probably needs to be bent upward.
If a plastic temple is bent, try heating it up by holding it over a steaming pot of water or under warm water. Once the temple has warmed up, dry it quickly and gently bend it back into alignment. With the fingers on one hand, hold the temple where it’s bent. With the other hand, hold the end of the temple and move it in whatever direction is necessary to straighten it out.
If you meet with resistance, stop to avoid breaking the temple. “If you have to make adjustments to your glasses yourself, be gentle and go slow,” says Bosung Kim, OD, an optometrist with Della Optique Eyewear & Optometry in Vancouver. “Being too fast or aggressive can lead to snapping the arm off or adjusting them too far so that it negatively impacts your vision, which will definitely need to be addressed by a professional.”
You should also resist the urge to heat the temples in other ways, such as holding your glasses over a flame or using a hairdryer. “This can damage the lenses and coatings if not done correctly,” says Kelli Conesa, OD, and CEO of the Chrycy Eye Group in Miami.
Metal frames may also be heated with warm water or steam to make them more pliable. But if it’s a minor adjustment, you may be able to bend it carefully without heat. Keep resting the glasses on a flat surface to see if they’re back in alignment.
If the temples seem straight but feel too tight or too loose, you can also adjust them by bending them upward or downward. For temples too tight at your ears, bend the end of the temples slightly upward. Most temples should bend at about a 45-degree angle just behind the ear. If the bend starts before the ear, the temples will need to be loosened.
For loose temples, hold them at the bend and pull the temples downward. Plan to try your glasses on a few times while you make adjustments. This may take some trial and error, so be careful not to bend your temples too much and risk a break.
Temples connect to the rims with a small hinge held in place by a tiny screw. Simply by folding your glasses open and closed repeatedly, the screw can start to come out and the hinge can become loose. And if the screw pops out entirely, it can be nearly impossible to find. And the only solution is a new screw.
Many screws are standard sized and are sold in eyeglass repair kits that usually include a small screwdriver, cleaning cloth, and replacement nose pads. A magnetized screwdriver can be especially helpful in preventing the replacement screw from disappearing.
To tighten the hinge, open the glasses and line up the holes in the rim and the temple. Use plenty of light and a magnifying glass if necessary. Insert the screw and turn it clockwise to tighten it. But only tighten it to the point where it stops turning easily. Don’t tighten it too much.
“If you are attempting to repair eyeglasses at home, ensure you have adequate lighting, have a flat and uncluttered work area, and are wearing your backup glasses or using a magnifier,” says Tampa-area optometrist Nora Cothran, OD. “Screws should be tightened very slowly, in order to prevent overtightening, stripping the screws, or damaging the frame.”
The nose pads are what keep your glasses positioned correctly and comfortably on your nose. If they’re too tight or close together, your glasses may rest too high on your nose. If they are too loose or wide, they tend to slide downward.
To adjust nose pads:
- Grip one nose pad between the thumb and forefinger of one hand, while holding the opposite temple with the other hand. You can also use needle-nose pliers to hold the nose pad.
- Gently bend the nose pad inward if it needs to be tightened.
- Repeat with the other side.
- Don’t try to pinch both nose pads together at the same time.
- Gently bend each nose pad outward individually if they need to be loosened.
Tips for broken glasses until you can get to your eye care professional
If your glasses break, but you can’t get to an optical shop immediately, some temporary fixes may get you through the rest of the day. There are also a couple of remedies you should avoid if you want to preserve your frames and lenses.
- Take your eyeglass repair kit with you on vacation or keep an extra kit in your care. If the problem is a lost screw or nose pad, you can make the repair on the spot.
- If you lose a screw and don’t have a spare, you can try sticking a wooden toothpick into the hole and breaking it off. This approach can often keep the temple affixed to the rim until a better repair can be made. You can also run dental floss through the hole and tie a tight knot to keep everything attached.
- If the frames break, use electrical tape if possible to hold your glasses together. Do not use any type of glue. Not only can the glue get on the lens and become nearly impossible to remove, but if you have any warranty on your frames, using glue may void the warranty.
- If a lens pops out, place it back in gently from the back of the rim, and be aware that the rim may be loose so the lens could drop out again.
A child’s glasses can be adjusted in the same way as an adult pair of glasses. You want to make them snug, so they will stay on during a child’s activities, but not so tight that they hurt. Moving the head from side to side and up and down should give you an idea of whether the glasses are a good fit. If there is some movement, the temples or nose pads may need to be tightened.
You should also be aware that the main reason a pair of glasses may no longer fit properly is that your child has outgrown them. The frames should be about the width of your child’s face and the temples should stick straight back over the ears. If the temples bow outward or if the frames don’t cover the widest part of your child’s face, it may be time for new glasses.
The two main concerns about adjusting glasses yourself are damaging the glasses beyond repair and ending up with lenses that aren’t centered properly to provide optimal vision. And if your glasses are under warranty, a botched self-repair could leave you with no other option, but to buy new glasses.
While you may feel empowered to adjust your glasses at home, especially if you have a repair kit, you may want to think twice about trying anything other than a minor adjustment. “I do not recommend investing in these kits because most optical shops will gladly do these repairs for you at little to no charge, especially if you purchased your frames from that shop,” Conesa says. “Optical shops have specialized equipment that can help make the repairs safely without any risk of damaging your frames.”
In general, problems with the lenses should be handled by an optician or optometrist. In some cases, scratches can be treated successfully. However, actual cracks in the lenses cannot be fixed.
“Properly fitted glasses are essential to making sure you’re looking through the optical center of each lens,” says San Diego-based ophthalmologist Angelique Pillar, MD. “If there is a mismatch between the optical center of the glasses and your focus, you can have significantly blurred vision or eye fatigue that can lead to headaches.”
In addition to optimizing your prescription, other reasons why a proper fit is essential include:
- Comfort: Glasses that are too tight can cause headaches or nose pain.
- Safety: Glasses that can slip off easily can be distraction or prevent you from being able to see clearly until they are put back in place.
- Appearance: Poorly fitting glasses don’t look professional and can affect how you’re perceived by others and how you see yourself.
One way to help ensure proper fitting glasses at the outset is to turn to trained eyewear professionals who can provide proper measurements and guidance to ensure the frames you choose are the proper size and fit.
Buying glasses online has become more common, according to the Vision Council, which reported in 2020 that about 14 percent of eyeglass sales in the United States were made online. However, a
James Dello Russo, OD, an optometrist with the New Jersey Eye Care Center, warns against buying glasses simply for their style, especially online. “It is critical to marry a good fit with style to make a successful, functional glass that is also a great fashion accessory,” he says. “The frame fitting process often gets skipped as more consumers seek the internet to fill their optical prescriptions. There is still no substitute for human touch from a trained professional to guide a patient through the optical dispensing process.”
The various experts involved in eye health and vision correction each have their own specialties, though the similar job titles can be confusing. Here’s a short list of eye health professionals you may see if you wear glasses:
- Ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats diseases of the eye, and can perform surgeries and other interventions.
- Optometrist. An optometrist is a doctor who provides routine eye care. They examine, diagnose, treat, and manage eye diseases and disorders.
- Optician. An optician is an eyewear expert who makes and/or sells eyeglasses and contact lenses.
“From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, we rely on our eyesight to navigate the world,” Cothran says. “Properly fitted eyeglasses maximize vision at all distances, protect the eyes, and reduce eyestrain.”
Knowing how to adjust your glasses means you can cut down on the frustration of crooked or ill-fitting eyewear, as well as the time required to rely on others to make minor adjustments. Having an eyeglass repair kit or two can be helpful to replace lost screws and nose pads. But remember that bending temples and rims can be risky, so be careful and never use too much force.
If you’re uncertain whether you can make an adjustment safely, take your glasses to an optical shop. In many cases, the repairs may be free or cost very little.