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Nasal Polyps

What Are Nasal Polyps?

Nasal polyps are soft, painless growths that form in the lining of the nasal and sinus cavities and can have a grape-like appearance. While there is a common misconception that nasal polyps are cancerous, these growths are often the result of prolonged inflammation from a variety of potential causes. The exact cause of nasal polyps is an area of active research, but polyps have been linked to:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Aspirin sensitivity
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Cystic fibrosis

Symptoms

Symptoms vary by the size of the polyps and may be asymptomatic in small polyps. In addition to feelings of a persistent head cold or congestion, individuals with nasal polyps may experience:

  • Changes in senses — Blocked nasal passages can interfere with the ability to smell, and changes to smell can interfere with the ability to taste.
  • Nasal congestion — Swollen membranes in the nose can block nasal passages, leading to a stuffy nose.
  • Recurrent sinus infections — Inflammation in the nasal passage may lead to chronic sinusitis and cause persistent cold-like symptoms that include coughing and nasal drainage.

Treatment Options

Physical exams and computed tomography scans are often employed to diagnose nasal polyps. Once diagnosis is confirmed, treatment for polyps can begin. The most common nasal polyp treatments include:

  • Medication — Certain medications, including steroid nasal sprays and pills, may help shrink polyps and make them more manageable. Additionally, antihistamines, antibiotics and other medications may be prescribed to manage polyp symptoms or other factors associated with polyp growths.
  • Surgery — In the event that medications do not improve nasal polyp symptoms, or for patients diagnosed with especially large polyps, surgery may be the most effective treatment. Most nasal polyp procedures are performed endoscopically, so they are minimally invasive and can be completed on an outpatient basis. Even though surgery may completely remove polyps, there is a possibility they can grow back. For that reason, it’s important to minimize factors that may contribute to polyp growth, such as exposure to allergens.

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