Nasal polyps are benign (non-cancerous) growths that sometimes develop on the lining of your nasal passages or in your sinus cavities.
These teardrop-shaped growths are often painless; however, they can be related to asthma, allergies, sensitivity to certain drugs, immune system disorders, or chronic nasal or sinus infections. There are both conservative and surgical remedies that can provide welcome relief if nasal polyps are bothersome.
Causes and Risk Factors
Nasal polyps are often associated with chronic sinusitis, although you can have these growths without having sinus infections. It’s not clear what causes polyps to develop in nasal or sinus passages. However, there is a link between nasal polyps and long-term inflammation. In addition to asthma and certain allergies, risk factors that increase your odds of having nasal polyps include:
- Aspirin sensitivity
- A rare disease that causes blood vessels to become inflamed (Churg-Strauss syndrome)
- Not getting enough vitamin D
Symptoms Associated with Nasal Polyps
Sneezing, postnasal drip, and having a runny nose are among the noticeable symptoms associated with nasal polyps. It’s also possible to have nasal or sinus growths with little or no symptoms. If the polyps are large enough or positioned in certain areas, you may experience difficulty smelling, facial pain, discomfort extending to your upper teeth, headaches, or an increased sensitivity to indoor or outdoor irritates such as vehicle fumes or dust. Some people also have issues with snoring or nighttime breathing because of nasal polyps.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis of nasal polyps often involves a visual assessment of the inside of your nostrils and sinus cavities with a lighted hollow tube with a lens (nasal endoscopy) that’s inserted in the nose via the nostrils. If polyps are believed to be located deeper within your nose or in your sinus areas, a CT scan or similar image test may be performed. If you may have undiagnosed allergies contributing to nasal growths, you may be advised to undergo allergy tests to confirm this.
If your nasal polyps aren’t excessively large, nasal corticosteroids may ease inflammation enough to improve airflow within your nose and sinus cavities. A similar option is oral and injectable corticosteroids. If you also have chronic sinusitis that’s causing nasal polyps to develop or return, treatment can be more complicated since it’s not always easy to manage recurring sinus infections. However, medication may help minimize congestion.
Should conservative treatments prove to be ineffective, endoscopic surgery at UCI’s Sinus Surgery Center may be recommended to remove the polyps. The affected nostrils or sinus cavities are accessed through the nose with a lighted scope and specially-sized instruments. After surgery, you may be advised to use a corticosteroid nasal spray to reduce your risk of recurrence.
More common in men and adults 40 and over, nasal polyps can affect anyone. If these growths develop during early childhood or adolescence, patients are typically evaluated for cystic fibrosis since individuals with this condition are more likely to have polyps. Your risk of developing nasal polyps again after treatment may also be reduced if you are proactive about managing underlying allergy or asthma symptoms.