Definition

Nasal polyps are growths that develop on the inside of your nose or sinuses. They are not able to spread to other parts of the body. You may have a single nasal polyp or you may have several. Nasal polyps are soft and pearl-colored.

Nasal Polyps
si1183 96472 1
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

The exact cause is not known. Several factors may contribute to nasal polyps, including:

Risk Factors

Men, especially those older than age 40 years, are at increased risk. Other factors that may increase the chances of nasal polyps:

  • Frequent sinus infections
  • Asthma
  • Aspirin sensitivity or allergy
  • Hay fever or other respiratory allergies
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome—a rare disease that inflames the blood vessels

Symptoms

Very small nasal polyps may not cause any symptoms. Larger polyps may block airflow, making it difficult to breathe through the nose. They can also block the passage of odors, reducing the sense of smell.

Symptoms may include:

  • Mouth breathing
  • A runny nose
  • Constant stuffiness
  • Loss or reduction of sense of smell or taste
  • Dull headaches
  • Snoring
  • Frequent nosebleeds

Diagnosis

You will be referred to a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating nasal polyps.

You will be asked questions about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, paying particular attention to your nose.

Images may be done with a CT scan.

Other tests may include:

  • Sweat test
  • Allergy skin tests
  • Biopsy of the polyp

Treatment

Treatment options include:

Medications

Nasal polyps may be treated with:

  • Steroid nasal sprays to reduce swelling, increase nasal airflow, and help shrink polyps
  • Medications to help reduce swelling and shrink polyps
  • Antihistamines to control allergies
  • Antibiotics if a bacterial infection is present

Surgery

In some cases, surgery may be needed. This can be done with:

  • Polypectomy—Removing nasal polyps. If the polyps are small, this can be done in your doctor's office. Polyps often return, so the procedure may need to be repeated.
  • Endoscopic sinus surgery—Removing the nasal polyps and opening the sinuses where the polyps form.

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent nasal polyps because the cause is unknown.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2018 -
  • Update Date: 05/01/2014 -