All about Nasal Polyps!

What are nasal polyps?

Nasal polyps can be defined as tender, painless and non cancerous growths that are found on the lining of one’s nasal passages and sinuses. They typically arise from chronic inflammation and are linked with asthma, recurring infection, allergies, drug sensitivity or certain immune disorders.

Nasal polyps are usually soft and lack any kind of sensation. So when they are small, one may not be bothered by their existence. But multiple growths or a larger polyp will lead to blockage of one’s nasal passages or induce breathing problems, a lost sense of smell and recurrent infection.

Nasal Polyps image by Dr GVK Chaitanya Rao

Anyone can get affected by nasal polyps. But it is most common in adults. Nasal polyps generally appear on both sides of the nostrils. A growth on only one side of a nasal cavity may be something else, like a cancerous tumor.

Nasal polyps can trigger symptoms that impacts one’s quality of life like:

  • Loss of smell
  • Nasal pressure
  • Congestion
  • Sinus infection

What are the common forms of nasal polyps?

The most common forms of nasal polyps seen in nose are:

  • Ethmoidal polyps
  • Antrochoanal polyp
  • Nose tumors

What are the symptoms of nasal polyps?

Small growth of polyps may not trigger any symptoms. But as they grow, they may give rise to:

  • Headaches
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nasal drainage
  • Bleeding nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sinus pressure
  • Pain in the sinuses, face or upper teeth
  • Snoring
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy eyes

Larger growth of polyps can block the nasal passages and sinuses, leading to:

  • Recurrent asthma attacks
  • Continuous sinus infection
  • Sleep apnea or other sleeping disorders
  • Breathing troubles

What are the causes of nasal polyps?

The causes of nasal polyps can be listed as:

  • Chronic or recurring sinus infections
  • Asthma
  • Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome
  • Sensitivity to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin

When to consult a doctor for nasal polyps?

Nasal Polyps image by Dr GVK Chaitanya Rao

Consult a doctor if:

  • One is facing severe breathing difficulties
  • One’s symptoms worsen abruptly
  • One is experiencing double vision, reduced vision or limited ability to move eyes
  • One is suffering from serious swelling around the eyes
  • One is anguished with intense headache accompanied by high fever or inability to tip the head forward

How are nasal polyps diagnosed?

An ENT specialist draws diagnosis for nasal polyps using the following ways:

  • General physical examination
  • Examination of the nose
  • Nasal endoscopy
  • Imaging studies like CT scan
  • Allergy tests
  • Test for cystic fibrosis
  • Blood test
  • MRI (rarely)

How are nasal polyps treated?

Nasal polyps are treated by an ENT specialist using the following below mentioned methods:

In case of small growths of polyps, an ENT specialist may prescribe medications like:

  • Nasal corticosteroids
  • Oral and injectable corticosteroids
  • Medications to treat nasal polyps and chronic sinusitis
  • Oral and nasal antihistamines
  • Antibiotics
  • Other medications

Medications often shrink or eliminate nasal polyps. But in some cases, surgery is needed to remove them. Nasal polypectomy is one such surgical procedure to remove polyps.

Nasal polypectomy is a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure. It is performed only when medications fail to shrink or eliminate nasal polyps. This surgery aids in removing polyps and correcting problems with one’s sinuses that make him/her prone to inflammation.

In this surgery, an ENT specialist inserts a small tube with a lighted magnifying lens or tiny camera (endoscope) into one’s nostrils and guides it into the sinus cavities. The ENT specialist employs tiny instruments to remove polyps and other substances that tend to block the flow of fluids from the sinuses.

The ENT specialist may also expand the openings leading from one’s sinuses to one’s nasal passages. This surgery is generally performed as an in patient procedure.

Normally the surgery lasts for a few hours and can prevent rare but critical problems that can arise from nasal polyps like complex sinusitis.

Post the surgery, one will be recommended by their ENT specialist to use:

  1. Corticosteroid nasal spray – To avoid the recurrence of nasal polyps.
  2. Saline rinse – To assist healing after surgery.

Infrequent complications of nasal polyps surgery includes:

  • Tear duct damage (nasolacrimal duct injury)
  • Vision loss
  • Injury to the skull base
  • Grave side effects from general anesthesia

Risk factors, complications and preventions of nasal polyps

Nasal spray for nasal polyps image by Dr GVK Chaitanya Rao

Medically reviewed by SinusDoctor,
Dr G V K Chaitanya Rao

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