Nasal polyps are a well known cause of sinus pressure and pain and occur in the nasal and sinus passages of many people. Chronic sinus sufferers may have anatomical obstructions in their nasal and sinus cavities, and nasal polyps are one of the most common of these. This article will briefly discuss the causes and effects of having nasal polyps.
Doctors are not 100% certain what the precise causes of nasal polyps are. In general it is thought that chronic inflammation in the nasal cavities can cause polyps to grow, often resulting in blockage of the sinus passages and resulting in infections. In addition, it appears that aspirin intolerance also seems to increase the likelihood of nasal polyps. Men over 40 years of age are more prone to develop polyps than are women or people in other age groups, unless asthma is a concurrent condition. It is not believed that allergies are the main cause of polyp growth since they occur in just as many people who do not have nasal allergies as in those who do.
Some physicians say that polyps are more likely to grow in people who also suffer from asthma. Dr. M. Lee Williams in his book entitled “The Sinusitis Help Book” writes: “It is often surprising how many asthmatics with sinusitis already have, or eventually go on to develop, nasal or sinus polyps, and how much improvement in their asthma may sometimes result from removing the polyps and clearing up their obstructive sinus disease.” He continues: “Unfortunately, even after polyps have been removed, more than one-third of the patients with nasal polyps will have a recurrence of them, and this is especially true for those with superimposed allergy, frequent sinus infections, repeated colds, asthma, cystic fibrosis, or aspirin intolerance.”
Polyps are not a separate growth, as is a tumor, and they consist of the same tissue as does their surrounding areas. The polyp tissue can contain cilia and secrete mucous, but sometimes the tissue hardens and flattens and the cilia are lost due to chronic infection or from being irritated by constant exposure to the nasal air stream.
Nasal polyps are often described as looking like some sort of rounded grape-like growth. Adding obstructions inside the nose, polyps can block the drainage passageways and therefore result in bacteria growth and infection. Polyps that develop in other parts of the body can become cancerous, but in general that is not the case with nasal polyps. Normally doctors do not seek biopsies when treating polyps in the nasal and sinus cavities.
Nasal polyps can often be controlled using mediations, especially corticosteroid medications like prednisone or steroid sprays. If the polyps cannot be controlled by medication, surgery might be necessary. In some patients who have polyps, no blockage occurs and in such cases many doctors will choose to forego surgery. Unfortunately, polyps have a strong tendency to return after they have been surgically removed.
It should be noted that nasal irrigation is not recommended for people with nasal polyps. This is because the pressure from the nasal irrigation procedure can be traumatic in that the fluid stream of saline solution would be pushing against the sensitive and exposed tissue of the polyp.
As is the case with other anatomical obstructions in the nasal cavities such as swollen turbinates or cysts, nasal polyps often cause blockage and can result in chronic sinus infections. Sinus sufferers should consult their physicians and have them determine if they have nasal or sinus polyps, and seek appropriate treatment. Fortunately nasal polyps can often be treated successfully with medications alone and surgery is not always a necessity.