Nasal polyps are soft, jelly-like overgrowths occurring in the lining of sinuses. They appear as grayish grape-like mass in the nasal cavity. Polyps in the nose and sinuses are rarely malignant. But large polyps can cause nasal blockage, making it hard to breathe. Even so, most nasal polyp problems can be helped.
Nasal polyps occur in around 1 in 200 people. Most of the time, the cause is never known. Some may be a result of swelling from a sinus infection. Other factors like asthma or aspirin sensitivity and allergies may also trigger polyps and make them grow faster. Also, the chance of reoccurrence is greater even after sinus operations.
Polyps block the nose, and in most cases there is a decrease in the sense of smell. Since much of our sense of taste is related to our sense of smell, patients with polyp may describe a loss of both taste and smell.
Nasal obstruction can also occur – the pathways where the sinuses drain into the nose can be blocked by polyp. This would cause the mucous to remain in the sinuses, causing congestion. It can also cause pressure over the forehead and face. When mucous is in the sinuses too long, there is a high risk of infection.
Although most people with nasal polyps have no symptoms and require no treatment, those who do experience symptoms have different treatment options.
If the polyps are a result of a sinus infection, they often will be treated as how sinusitis symptoms are treated. Aggressive medical treatment of sinus infection is helpful to treat polyp growths. Nose sprays are the most effective because they allow easy topical application of medication to the infected areas.
Other treatment options include:
- Surgical removal – the polyp is extracted surgically from the affected area. Removing the polyps with surgery usually allows people to breathe easier through the nose. The surgery lasts approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. The surgery can be done under general or local anaesthesia, and the polyps are removed using endoscopic surgery. Recovery from this type of surgery is anywhere from one to three weeks. However, there is a risk of re-growth in 50% of patients.
- Cortisone or steroids – the polyp will shrink down temporarily and slow down polyp growth. Cortisone cannot be taken long term because of high risk of side effects.
- Sinus Rinse or Nasal Lavage – Sinus rinses with warm water mixed with a small amount of salt can be very helpful to clear sinuses. This method can also be used as a preventive measure to discourage the polyps from growing back and should be used in combination with a nasal steroid.
- Allergy desensitization injections- sometimes used in allergic patients with hay fever and polyps. While this often helps with hay fever and therefore reduces the fever’s negative effects on the polyps, there is no guarantee that the injections help shrink the polyps directly.
- Although there is no real way to prevent or eliminate nasal polyps completely, therapy aimed at the cause can help.