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Nasal polyps

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Aug 8, 2023.

Overview

Nasal polyps are painless growths inside the nose or the hollow areas inside the bones of the face, also known as sinuses. Nasal polyps aren't cancer.

Small nasal polyps might not cause symptoms. Larger growths or groups of nasal polyps can block the nose. They can lead to breathing problems, not being able to smell and infections.

Nasal polyps can affect anyone. But they're more common in young and middle-aged adults. Medicines can often shrink nasal polyps or get rid of them. But surgery might be needed to remove them. Even after treatment, nasal polyps often come back.

Nasal polyps

Nasal polyps are soft growths on the lining of the nose or the spaces inside the nose, known as sinuses. Nasal polyps aren't cancer. Nasal polyps often occur in groups, like grapes on a stem.

Symptoms

Nasal polyps are linked to irritation and swelling, also called inflammation, of the inside of the nose and sinuses that lasts more than 12 weeks. This is known as chronic sinusitis. But it's possible to have chronic sinusitis without getting nasal polyps.

People who have small nasal polyps might not know they have them. But having more than one polyp or having a large polyp can block the nose.

Common symptoms of chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps include:

When to see a doctor

See a health care provider for symptoms that last more than 10 days. Symptoms of chronic sinusitis and nasal polyps are like those of many other illnesses, including the common cold.

Seek medical care right away or call 911 or your local emergency number if you have:

Causes

Experts don't know what causes nasal polyps. They don't know why some people get nasal polyps and others don't.

Risk factors

Infections, allergies or any condition that causes long-term inflammation in the nose or sinuses can increase the risk of having nasal polyps.

Conditions often linked to nasal polyps include:

Having a family history of nasal polyps also might increase the risk.

Complications

One of the most common complications of chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps is making asthma worse.

Prevention

The following might help lower the chances of getting nasal polyps or having nasal polyps come back after treatment:

Diagnosis

A diagnosis of nasal polyps starts with symptoms, a medical history and a physical exam.

Tests to diagnose nasal polyps might include:

Treatment

Chronic sinusitis, with or without polyps, is hard to clear up. Treatment depends on the cause of the swelling and irritation. The goal is to lessen symptoms and improve life.

Medicines

Treatments might include:

Surgery

If medicine doesn't shrink or get rid of nasal polyps, endoscopic surgery can remove polyps and correct problems with the sinuses that lead to polyps.

In endoscopic surgery, a surgeon puts a small tube with a lighted lens or tiny camera, also known as an endoscope, through the nostrils into the sinuses. A surgeon then uses tiny tools to remove polyps.

A surgeon can also make the openings to the sinuses larger. This can be done during endoscopic surgery. Or there's a procedure called balloon ostial dilation. This procedure doesn't involve removing tissue from inside the nose.

After surgery, a corticosteroid nasal spray might help keep nasal polyps from coming back. A saltwater rinse can promote healing after surgery.

Endoscopic sinus surgery

The left picture shows the frontal (A) and maxillary (B) sinuses. It also shows the channel between the sinuses, also known as the ostiomeatal complex (C). The right picture shows the results of endoscopic sinus surgery. A surgeon uses a lighted tube and tiny cutting tools to open the blocked passage and let the sinuses drain. (D).

Preparing for an appointment

You'll likely start by seeing your primary care provider. You might then be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist or an allergy specialist.

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

Ask a family member or friend to go with you, if possible. Having someone with you can help you recall the information you get during the appointment.

Make a list of:

Some basic questions to ask might include:

Ask other questions you have.

What to expect from your doctor

Your care provider might ask you questions, including:

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