What are nasal polyps?

Nasal polyps are benign (non-cancerous) growths that form on the lining of the nasal passages and sinuses (small air-filled cavities located throughout the facial bones.) A polyp develops when the mucus membranes in the nose or sinuses become inflamed and swell over a long period of time. When the polyps grow large enough, they can block the nasal passageways and sinuses and lead to sinus infections and breathing problems.

What are the symptoms of nasal polyps?

The symptoms of nasal polyps include the following:

  • Runny nose or stuffy nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Lost or weakened sense of smell and taste
  • Headache
  • Sinus pressure
  • Snoring at night

What causes nasal polyps?

The full cause of nasal polyps is not yet known, but it is believed to be brought on by many different factors. Nasal polyps have been associated with allergies, certain genetic (inherited) conditions, and asthma. It is believed that inflammation causes the buildup of fluid within the mucus membranes. This results in the formation of fluid-filled growths, which over time expand to become polyps.

What are the complications of nasal polyps?

The complications of nasal polyps include:

  • Chronic (long-term) or frequent sinus infections
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Asthma flare-ups
  • Double vision (severe cases)

Who gets nasal polyps?

Anyone who has a condition that triggers inflammation in the nose can get nasal polyps. Some of these conditions are:

  • Asthma
  • An allergy to aspirin or other pain relievers
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Allergic rhinitis (a condition that causes stuffy or runny nose and sneezing)
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Allergic fungal sinusitis (an allergy to an airborne fungi)
  • Other acute (short-term) or chronic infections

How are nasal polyps treated?

Nasal polyps cannot be cured, but they can be treated with medications. Corticosteroid nasal sprays and pills are the most frequently used medications for treating nasal polyps. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the patient has a sinus infection caused by bacteria.

If the condition gets worse, the patient may need surgery. The type of surgery depends on how severe the polyps are. Endoscopic sinus surgery is the most commonly performed procedure for nasal polyps. This is an outpatient surgery in which the surgeon uses an endoscope (a small thin tube with a light and video camera), along with other instruments, to examine the inside of the nose, remove the nasal polyps, and open up the sinus cavities for proper drainage.

How do I prevent nasal polyps?

Not everyone will be able to prevent nasal polyps. However, there are a few ways you may be able to help yourself. The strategies include the following:

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions on taking your allergy and asthma medications.
  • Avoid breathing airborne allergens or irritants that lead to inflammation of your nose and sinus cavities.
  • Practice good hygiene.
  • Use a humidifier in your home to help moisten your breathing passages.
  • Use a saline nasal rinse or spray to remove allergens or other irritants that may cause nasal polyps.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 2/9/2017…#15250