Nasal polyps are soft, painless, noncancerous growths on the lining of your nasal passages or sinuses. They hang down like teardrops or grapes. They result from chronic inflammation due to asthma, recurring infection, allergies, drug sensitivity or certain immune disorders.
Common signs and symptoms of chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps include:
- A runny nose
- Persistent stuffiness
- Postnasal drip
- Decreased or absent sense of smell
- Loss of sense of taste
- Facial pain or headache
- Pain in your upper teeth
- A sense of pressure over your forehead and face
- Itching around your eyes
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if your symptoms last more than 10 days. Symptoms of chronic sinusitis and nasal polyps are similar to those of many other conditions, including the common cold.
Seek immediate medical care or your local emergency number if you experience:
- Serious trouble breathing
- Sudden worsening of your symptoms
- Double vision, reduced vision or limited ability to move your eyes
- Severe swelling around your eyes
- Increasingly severe headache accompanied by high fever or inability to tip your head forward
Conditions often associated with nasal polyps include:
- Asthma, a disease that causes overall airway inflammation and constriction
- Aspirin sensitivity may cause some people to be more likely to develop nasal polyps
- Allergic fungal sinusitis, an allergy to airborne fungi
- Cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that results in the production and secretion of abnormally thick, sticky fluids, including thick mucus from nasal and sinus membranes
- Churg-Strauss syndrome, a rare disease that causes the inflammation of blood vessels
Nasal polyps can cause complications because they block normal airflow and fluid drainage, and also because of the chronic inflammation underlying their development. Potential complications include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea.
- Asthma flare-ups.
- Sinus infections.
- Spread of infection to your eye socket.
- Infection also can spread to the membranes and fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord.
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor can usually make a diagnosis based on your answers to questions about your symptoms, a general physical exam and an examination of your nose. Polyps may be visible with the aid of a simple lighted instrument.
Other diagnostic tests include:
- Nasal endoscopy.
- Imaging studies.
- Allergy tests.
- Test for cystic fibrosis.
Treatments and drugs
The treatment goal for nasal polyps is to reduce their size or eliminate them. Medications are usually the first approach. Surgery may sometimes be needed, but it may not provide a permanent solution because polyps tend to recur.
Nasal polyp treatment usually starts with drugs, which can make even large polyps shrink or disappear. Drug treatments may include:
- Nasal corticosteroids.
- Oral and injectable corticosteroids.
- Other medications. Your doctor may prescribe drugs to treat conditions that contribute to chronic inflammation in your sinuses or nasal passages. These may include antihistamines to treat allergies and antibiotics to treat a chronic or recurring infection. Aspirin desensitization and treatment may benefit some patients with nasal polyps and aspirin sensitivity.
If drug treatment doesn’t shrink or eliminate nasal polyps, you may need endoscopic surgery to remove polyps and to correct problems with your sinuses that make them prone to inflammation and polyp development.
You may help reduce your chances of developing nasal polyps or having nasal polyps recur after treatment with the following strategies:
- Manage allergies and asthma.
- Avoid nasal irritants.
- Practice good hygiene.
- Humidify your home.
- Use a nasal rinse or nasal lavage.