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.
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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. Factors that may increase your chance of developing nasal polyps include:
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:
You will be referred to a specialist. It is important to see a doctor with special training in diagnosing and treating nasal polyps, called an otorhinolaryngologists or an otolaryngologist.
You will be asked questions about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, paying particular attention to your nose.
Pictures may be taken of your nose. This can be done with a CT scan.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
- Sweat test
- Allergy skin tests
- Biopsy of the polyp
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Medications may include:
- Nasal sprays, particularly those containing steroids, to reduce swelling, increase nasal airflow, and help shrink polyps
- Medications to help reduce swelling and shrink polyps
- Drugs to control allergies or infection, such as antihistamines for allergies or antibiotics for a bacterial infection
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.
There are no current guidelines to prevent nasal polyps because the cause is unknown.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Allergy Asthma Information Association
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Last reviewed March 2016 by Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 5/1/2014