Nasal polyposis is an inflammatory condition where polyps develop along the lining of the nasal passages or sinuses. Nasal polyps are painless, noncancerous growths that look similar to teardrops or grapes hanging from the mucous membrane. Polyps most commonly affect young and middle-aged adults, but they can develop at any age.
Symptoms of Nasal Polyps
Often, small nasal polyps do not cause any symptoms. However, larger polyps or clusters of small polyps can block the nasal passages and cause a number of symptoms including:
- Breathing problems
- Congestion or stuffiness
- Loss of smell
- Runny nose
- Post nasal drip
- Itching around the eyes
Complications of Nasal Polyps
- Nasal Obstruction: When polyps become large, they can block the nasal passages. This limits the amount of air that can pass through the nose and makes breathing difficult.
- Chronic sinusitis or frequent acute sinusitis: Large polyps also prevent the sinuses from draining properly. This leads to sinusitis and infections that can cause facial pain, headaches, pressure and fatigue.
- Bone destruction: With increased growth, nasal polyps can cause destruction to the bone structure of the nose and face in extreme cases.
- Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea: Nasal polyposis can lead to snoring and sleep apnea due to obstructed nasal airways.
Causes and Risk Factors for Nasal Polyps
The exact cause of polyp growth is unclear, but it is related to inflammation of the mucous membrane or lining of the nasal passages and sinuses. People who develop polyps may have a different immune system response than people who don’t develop polyps. Conditions that trigger chronic inflammation of the sinuses and nasal passages such as asthma, infections, allergies, aspirin sensitivity and specific immune disorders may also increase the risk of developing polyps.
Nonsurgical Treatment for Nasal Polyps
The first step in treating nasal polyps usually involves medication. Medications are used to treat the symptoms and complications that develop from polyps as well as the nasal polyps themselves. In many cases a combination of medications such as antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays may prove to be most effective.
- Antihistamines: These are used to help control allergies, an underlying condition, associated with polyp growth.
- Decongestants: While these medications do not have much of an effect on nasal polyps, they are often used to help alleviate congestion and symptoms caused by polyps before starting nasal steroid sprays.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics will not treat nasal polyps, but are often prescribed to treat infections and sinusitis resulting from large polyps.
- Corticosteroids: Both oral and nasal steroid sprays are used to shrink and even eliminate nasal polyps. These medications can be extremely effective in the management of polyps.
Surgical Treatment for Nasal Polyps
When polyps don’t respond to medication, surgery to remove the growths may be necessary. This type of surgery is usually performed endoscopically. This allows for the removal of the growths while preserving normal tissue in the nasal passages and sinuses. Typically this surgery is done as an outpatient procedure. Recovery time with nasal polyp surgery is minimal and results can be immediate. Polyp removal is sometimes done in conjunction with sinus surgery to maximize the results and relieve for patients. It is possible for nasal polyps to return, even after being surgically removed. Ongoing management of underlying causes such as asthma and allergies is key.