Nasal polyps are growths that develop on the inside of your nose or sinuses. Nasal polyps are benign, however there are certain tumors that present as simple polyps, and should be evaluated by a specialist. You may have a single nasal polyp. Or, you may have several clustered together. Nasal polyps are soft and pearl-colored, with a texture like jelly. Nasal polyps can be treated. Contact your doctor if you think you have nasal polyps.
Doctors don’t know the cause of nasal polyps. Several factors may contribute to nasal polyps, including:
- Irritation in the sinuses from allergy or infection
- Frequent sinus infections
- Allergy to things in the air
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The following factors increase your chance of getting nasal polyps:
- Sex: men
- Age: older than 40
- Aspirin sensitivity
- Churg-Strauss syndrome (a rare disease that inflames the blood vessels)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Hay fever or other respiratory allergies
- Frequent sinus infections
Very small nasal polyps may not cause any symptoms. Larger polyps may block the nose, making it difficult to breathe through the nose. They can also block the passage of odors, and reduce the sense of smell. If you experience any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to nasal polyps. These symptoms may be caused by other health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician. Symptoms Include:
- Mouth breathing
- A runny nose
- Constant stuffiness
- Loss or reduction of sense of smell or taste
- Dull headaches
It is important to see a doctor with special training in diagnosing and treating nasal polyps. These doctors are called otorhinolaryngologists or ear, nose, and throat doctors. These doctors specialize in conditions that affect the ears, nose, and throat. To find one of these doctors, ask your primary care physician for a referral.
The doctor will look at the inside of your nose to check for blockage.
This physical exam may include:
- Putting cotton balls soaked in medicine inside your nose to reduce swelling for a clearer view inside the nose
- Using a small instrument to look inside the nose
- Gently pressing inside of the nose to check for swelling
The doctor will ask questions about:
- Medication use
- Your personal and family medical history
Other tests include:
- CT Scan–a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of polyps inside the nose and sinuses
- Sweat Test–a test that measures the amount of sodium and chloride in the perspiration to check for cystic fibrosis
- Allergy Skin Tests–to see whether you have allergies
- Biopsy of the polyp–to confirm the diagnosis
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
- Nasal sprays to reduce swelling, increase nasal airflow, and help shrink polyps
- Drugs to help reduce swelling and shrink polyps
- Drugs to control allergies or infection, such as antihistamines for allergies or antibiotics for a bacterial infection
- Polypectomy–removing nasal polyps by removing the polyps from the nose
- Endoscopic Sinus Surgery–removing the nasal polyps and opening the sinuses where the polyps form
There are no guidelines for preventing nasal polyps because the cause is not known. But there are several things you can do to reduce your chances of developing nasal polyps:
- For a stuffy or runny nose, use a preservative-free saline spray. This helps reduce irritation in the sinuses.
- If you have hay fever or another allergy, see your doctor for treatment. Avoid the substance that causes your allergy.
- If you have asthma or frequent sinus infections, take your medications as your doctor suggests.
- If you have aspirin sensitivity, avoid all medications that contain aspirin.