Nasal Polyp

(Nasal Polyposis)

Pronounced: NAY-suhl PAH-lip

Definition

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.

Nasal Polyps

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Causes    TOP

The exact cause it not known. Several factors may contribute to nasal polyps, including:

Risk Factors    TOP

Men, especially those older than 40 years of age, are at increased risk. Factors that may increase your chance of developing nasal polyps include:

  • Frequent sinus infections
  • Asthma
  • Aspirin sensitivity or allergy
  • Hay fever or other respiratory allergies
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome—a rare disease that inflames the blood vessels

Symptoms    TOP

Very small nasal polyps may not cause any symptoms. Larger polyps may block the nose, making it difficult to breathe through the nose. They can also block the passage of odors and reduce the sense of smell.

Symptoms may include:

  • Mouth breathing
  • A runny nose
  • Constant stuffiness
  • Loss or reduction of sense of smell or taste
  • Dull headaches
  • Snoring
  • Frequent nosebleeds

Diagnosis    TOP

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

Treatment    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Medications

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

Surgery

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. Unfortunately, polyps often return.
  • Endoscopic sinus surgery—removing the nasal polyps and opening the sinuses where the polyps form

Prevention    TOP

There are no guidelines for preventing nasal polyps, because the cause is not known.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
http://www.aaaai.org
American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery
http://www.entnet.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Allergy Asthma Information Association
http://aaia.ca

References:

Dalziel K, Stein K, Round A, Garside R, Royle P. Systematic review of endoscopic sinus surgery for nasal polyps. Health Technol Assess. 2003;7:1-159.
Larsen K. The clinical relationship of nasal polyps to asthma. Allergy Asthma Proc. 1996;17:243-249.
Lund VJ. Diagnosis and treatment of nasal polyps. BMJ. 1995;311:1411-1414.
Nasal polyps. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 25, 2014. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Patient UK. Nasal polyps. Patient UK website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 21, 2014. Accessed February 17, 2015.
White AA, Stevenson DD. Aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease: update on pathogenesis and desensitization. Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2012 Dec;33(6):588-94.
Last reviewed February 2015 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 5/1/2014