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Nasal Polyp (Nose Polyps)

Nasal polyposis (Nose polyps) occurs when tissue within the nose swells and grows outward, creating soft and painless sacs of tissue. Nasal polyps can form at any age, but more commonly in young and middle-aged adults. Nasal polyps may form anywhere in your sinuses or nasal passages, but they appear most often in an area where sinuses near your eyes, nose, and cheekbones.

Lateral View of Nasal Polyps


What Causes Nose Polyps?

No conclusive cause for nasal polyposis has been established, but they are thought to be caused by chronic inflammation due to allergies or chronic sinus infections and can be associated with asthma in adults and cystic fibrosis in children. More recently, an allergy to fungal spores in the air has been identified as a major risk factor for nasal polyps.


What Are The Symptoms Of Nasal Polyps?

-Nose is always blocked (nasal congestion)
-Constant runny nose or postnasal drip
-Decreased or loss of sense of smell (anosmia) or taste
-Headache or forehead and cheek pain
-A bad head cold that does not go away


What Are The Nasal Polyp Risk Factors?

Any common factor that could cause sinus inflammation could lead to nasal polyps, but these risk factors could jump start that process:

  • Asthma
  • Aspirin sensitivity
  • Allergic fungal sinusitis
  • Cystic fibrosis


How Are Nasal Polyps Diagnosed?

A doctor can often detect polyps simply by looking in the front of the nose with a headlight. For a more complete examination, the doctor can use a narrow lighted tube with a magnifying lens (nasal endoscope) to look deeper inside the nasal cavity. A CAT scan of the sinuses will show areas that cannot be seen by looking into the nose and can show the extent to which the polyps are filling the sinuses.
CT Scan of Frontal Sinus Polyps

The doctor can use skin or blood allergy testing to determine if allergies might be causing some of the inflammation.


What Are The Potential Complications Of Nasal Polyposis?

Patients may have recurrent sinus infections from obstructive nasal polyps. If the infections do not resolve after 3 months then the infection becomes a chronic sinus infection. Large polyps may eventually compress the eyes or push on the brain. Nasal obstruction can cause snoring or even sleep apnea, a condition that stops your breathing during sleep and can cause serious heart and lung damage.


What Medical Treatments Are Available?

Avoidance of known causative factors for nasal polyps is important. A saline rinse or net pot may be useful. Nasal or oral steroids can reduce inflammation and may shrink nasal polyps. Oral or nasal antihistamines can decrease symptoms of allergies. Bacterial sinus infections that do not resolve after 7 to 10 days should be treated with antibiotics. For fungal sinusitis, an antifungal medication, steroids, immunotherapy, and avoidance of the exposure to the fungus may be effective.

If your nasal polyps prove resistant to conservative treatment and medications, then they can be removed in an ambulatory sinus surgery procedure (polypectomy). If you are experiencing sinus inflammation, endoscopic sinus surgery can ventilate and provide drainage to the sinuses. You will generally go home about an hour after surgery. You may feel congested following surgery, but your breathing may also be better immediately.

Photograph of a Nasal Polyp


Can I Prevent Nasal Polyps From Coming Back?

The patient and doctor must maintain constant vigilance after nasal polyp removal. Unfortunately, nasal polyps will return in approximately 2 out of every 3 people who experience them. With a thorough surgery by an experienced sinus surgeon, steroid rinses and oral steroids will decrease the chance of polyp return. Saline rinses may decrease irritation in some patients. Air purification is always a good idea, as the air inside the home can have 5 to 10 times as many impurities as outside air. Avoiding dust, pollution, and irritating chemicals can decrease nasal swelling. Humidifiers can keep the inside lining of the nose moist in the winter or in dry environments but too much humidification will promote the growth of dust mites. Medical treatment of allergies and asthma will also decrease inflammation inside the nose. Hand washing and covering your nose when you sneeze are some of the best ways to prevent the spread of viral and bacterial infections that may aggravate the polyposis.


Meet Dr. Garrett Bennett

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Meet Dr. Garrett Bennett

Dr. Bennett is a New York City sinus surgery and rhinoplasty specialist. He is double board-certified with board certifications in Otolaryngology by the American Board of Otolaryngology, and Facial Plastic Surgery by the American Board of Facial and Reconstructive Surgery. He operates and has privileges at Lenox Hill Hospital, a signature acute care facility part of the Northwell Health System, and Gramercy Medical Center located in Manhattan, New York. Learn More »