Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are non-cancerous growths of inflamed tissue that develop from the lining of the nose or sinuses. Large nasal polyps can make breathing difficult and may lead to a decreased sense of smell and taste. Nasal polyps can be caused by sinus infections (viral or bacterial), allergies or as an immune system response.

Nasal polyp symptoms include:

  • Breathing through the mouth instead of through the nose
  • Sinus pressure
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Runny nose
  • Persistent stuffiness
  • Headaches
  • Loss or diminished sense of smell and taste
  • Snoring

Chronic inflammation in the nose or sinuses is the biggest risk factor for nasal polyps. Nasal polyps are more common in adults and children with cystic fibrosis, asthma, allergic rhinitis or chronic sinusitis. They are also more common in adults over the age of 40.

Evaluation for and of nasal polyps may include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Nasal endoscopy (insertion of a flexible or rigid fiber-optic telescope into the nasal passages to allow the doctor to examine them clearly and in more detail)
  • Allergy skin testing and desensitization allergy shots (immunotherapy)
  • Laboratory tests to identify chronic conditions such as cystic fibrosis

Small nasal polyps may be treated with corticosteroid nasal sprays and oral corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and the size of the polyps. If medications aren’t effective—and for larger polyps that fail medical therapy as well—endoscopic sinus surgery may be recommended to remove them.

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