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.

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

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 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