Nasal Polyps

What are nasal polyps?

Nasal polyps are smooth, teardrop shaped growths in the lining of your nose or sinuses. Polyps usually grow in both the right and left nasal passages.

What is the cause?

Most polyps are caused by irritation and swelling in the tissues of your nose or sinuses. You are more likely to get polyps if you have:

  • Asthma
  • Aspirin allergy
  • Hay fever (seasonal allergies)
  • Frequent sinus infections
  • Cystic fibrosis (a lung disease you are born with)

Men are more likely than women to have nasal polyps.

What are the symptoms?

Polyps look like small white or pink grapes high inside the back of the nose. You may not be able to see them if you look in your nose. They can cause:

  • Stuffy nose and trouble breathing
  • Runny nose or sneezing
  • A poor sense of smell and taste
  • Changes in the way your voice sounds
  • Mouth breathing
  • Frequent sinus infections

How are they diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. He or she will ask if you have asthma or are allergic to aspirin. You may be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist for tests which may include:

  • Endoscopy uses a slim, flexible, lighted tube passed through your nostrils to examine your nasal passages. Before the test you are given numbing medicine so that the test will not be painful.
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of your sinuses.
  • MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of your sinuses

Most polyps are not cancer, but you may need more tests or scans to confirm that.

How are they treated?

If your nasal polyps are small, your healthcare provider may prescribe a steroid nasal spray. Steroid medicines usually begin to shrink nasal polyps within 10 days. If you keep taking the medicine, it may prevent new polyps. You may have to lower your dosage slowly before stopping it.

If your polyps are large, you may need surgery to remove them.

How can I help prevent nasal polyps?

Once you have had nasal polyps, they often come back, even after treatment. Using a steroid nasal spray may keep polyps from coming back. Talk with your healthcare provider about this.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-09-03
Last reviewed: 2014-09-04
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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