Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 18 March 2021
Table of contents
What Are Nasal Polyps?
Nasal polyps are teardrop-shaped growths that develop in the nose or sinuses that are noncancerous. They’re most often located at the opening of the sinuses into the nasal cavity. The mature ones mimic peeled grapes.
They’re often attributed to allergies or asthma, but they don’t often trigger symptoms, particularly if they’re minor and don’t need treatment. Larger ones have the potential to obstruct sinus drainage. Sinuses may become swollen if there is so much mucus in them.
Nasal polyps, unlike polyps in the colon or vagina, are seldom cancerous. Experts say they are triggered by long-term inflammation or run in communities.
Polyps in the nose aren’t painful to the touch. The majority of conditions should be handled with medications or surgery. They could return, however.
Symptoms of Nasal Polyps
If you have any symptoms, these can include a runny, congested, or blocked nose.
Wheezing, sinus infections and sensitivity to smoke, odors, particles, and chemicals are all common symptoms. Few patients with nasal polyps may have a severe allergy to aspirin and a reaction to yellow dyes, but this is less common. Ask your doctor to check for nasal polyps if you know you have an allergy.
Long-term (chronic) sinusitis is more likely if you have nasal polyps. Large nasal polyps will also modify the nose’s shape.
Nasal Polyp Causes and Risk Factors
Nobody really understands what triggers nasal polyps or that certain people have them and others don’t. Any scientists say that has something to do with the immune system or the chemical composition of your nasal and sinus lining. However, further research is required.
Nasal polyps may affect anyone, but they’re most prevalent in adults over 40 and affect men twice as often as women. They rarely affect children under the age of ten. A doctor will examine them for symptoms of cystic fibrosis if children are found to have nasal polyps.
Allergy rhinitis, allergies, aspirin allergy, sinus infections, acute and persistent infections, something lodged in the nose, and cystic fibrosis are all related to nasal polyps. However, in certain cases, the cause is unknown. They are often acquired prior to the onset of asthma or sinusitis.
Some doctors believe that allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and itching, increase the risk of nasal polyps in some individuals. However, the allergy relation is debatable. Sinus infections, according to some experts, are to blame.
Diagnosis of Nasal Polyps
Your doctor will ask you more about how you’re doing and see if you have nasal polyps. You’ll most likely receive a physical examination as well.
Then, using an instrument called a nasal endoscope, they’ll examine the nose. It has a magnifying lens or a monitor that allows you to see the nose and sinuses in great detail.
If those tests do not support a diagnosis, your doctor can order additional tests, such as:
- Imaging tests – including CT scans
- Allergy tests – to confirm if allergies are causing the symptoms
- Blood tests to check vitamin D levels. Low levels have been linked to nasal polyps
Treatment for Nasal Polyps
Medications: If you need treatment, a nasal corticosteroid spray would most definitely be the first step. Nasal polyps may also be shrunk or eliminated in this way. Some patients, though, need a week of oral corticosteroids such as prednisone. If that doesn’t work, your doctor can give you a shot of dupilumab, an anti-inflammatory drug (Dupixent).
Unfortunately, if the inflammation, allergy, or infection persists, nasal polyps will return. As a result, you will need to continue using a corticosteroid spray and get regular checkups using a nasal endoscope.
Antihistamines and decongestants, for example, aren’t very effective at treating nasal polyps. Before you start using steroids, you can need antihistamines to control asthma or antibiotics if you have an infection.
Surgery: Nasal polyps may grow to be so big that medications are ineffective. Surgery could be an alternative in such situations.
The specialist will most likely remove nasal polyps using a tiny nasal telescope. You will be able to return home the same day as your surgery.
In the vast majority of instances, surgery is beneficial. If you have nasal polyps, allergies, or an aspirin allergy, it might be less effective. If this is the case, medication could be more beneficial.
Complications of Nasal Polyps
Nasal polyps will obstruct breathing and prevent mucus from draining properly. When they’re developing, they can cause a lot of discomfort and inflammation. Both of these factors may lead to complications, such as:
- Sinus infections
- Asthma flare-ups
- Obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition where you stop and start breathing while you sleep
Referenced on 2.3.2021:
- Merck Manual Home Edition: “Nasal Polyps."
- Merck Manual Professional: “Nasal Polyps."
- American Rhinologic Society: “Nasal Polyps."
- General Hospital for Children: “Nasal Polyps."
- Mayo Clinic: “Nasal Polyps."
- National Institutes of Health: “The Epidemiological and Clinical Aspects of Nasal Polyps that Require Surgery."
- Regeneron Pharmaceuticals: “Highlights of Prescribing Information: Dupixent."