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Nasal Polyps Explained

man with nasal painNasal polyps are soft growths that form on the lining or your nasal passages or sinuses. They’re often shaped like teardrops or grapes, and although they can cause irritating symptoms, they’re non-cancerous. Depending on their size and location, you may not realize you have nasal polyps, but they may be causing you to suffer from bothersome symptoms.

In this blog, the board-certified ear, nose, and throat doctors at New York ENT will explain what you need to know about nasal polyps.

Who gets nasal polyps?

If you’ve had inflammation due to chronic sinusitis (sinus infections), allergies, hay fever, or asthma, you have a greater chance of developing nasal polyps. The inflammation that can cause these polyps can also result from an immune disorder, cystic fibrosis, or sensitivity to medication (such as aspirin).

What symptoms do these polyps cause?

Small polyps may not cause symptoms, but larger ones are more likely to cause issues. They can block your nasal passages and cause mucus to build up, resulting in chronic sinus infections. This can cause the following symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Feeling like your nose is blocked
  • Feeling like you always have a head cold
  • Postnasal drip (the sensation of mucus dripping down the back of your throat)
  • Reduced sense of smell or taste
  • Headache
  • Facial pain

In addition, you may have other complications because the polyps block fluid drainage and the normal flow of air. These include:

  • Asthma flare-ups
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: A serious disorder characterized by repeated breathing pauses during sleep.

How are they diagnosed?

Your doctor will talk to you about your medical history and symptoms and also will examine your nose.

He or she may also utilize some of the following tests to detect nasal polyps:

  • Nasal endoscopy: Your doctor can closely examine the inside of your nose and sinuses by using an endoscope. This narrow, lighted tube has a tiny camera on the end, and your doctor can guide it into a nostril to examine your nasal cavity.
  • CT scan: If you have polyps in deeper areas of your sinuses, this type of scan will let your doctor see them. He or she will also be able to see how inflamed the area is and look for other possible issues that could be contributing to your symptoms.

How are nasal polyps treated?

Medication

Medications are often the first course of treatment for nasal polyps. They may include the following:

  • Nasal corticosteroids: These medications are often the first treatment used, and they can reduce inflammation and may shrink or eliminate polyps. They include products such as Flonase, Rhinocort, and Nasonex.
  • Oral or injectable corticosteroids: Oral corticosteroids can be used alone or with nasal sprays. They should only be taken for a short period of time, however, because of the potential of serious side effects. For more severe polyps, injectable corticosteroids may be used.
  • Allergy medicines: Antihistamines can help block your body’s reaction to an allergen.
  • Antibiotics: These can help only if polyps are caused by a sinus infection that’s caused by bacteria.

Surgery

If medication isn’t effective, large polyps that are obstructing your airways may require surgery in order to remove them. This type of procedure is called a polypectomy, and it can be performed in-office using local anesthesia. It’s performed through your nostrils, so no external incisions are needed.

Your doctor will use an endoscope to get a clear view of your nasal passages, allowing polyps to be located and precisely removed using a small suction device called a microdebrider.

After surgery, you should be able to return to your normal activities immediately. You’ll just need to take a little care and avoid strenuous activity for a few days and be careful when blowing your nose.

To find out more information about nasal polyps, make an appointment with New York ENT today. We’ll determine the cause of your nasal and sinus symptoms and recommend the least-invasive, most effective treatments.

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