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Nasal Polyps

What they are.

Nasal polyps are common, noncancerous, teardrop-shaped growths that form in the nose or sinuses, usually around the area where the sinuses open into the nasal cavity.  Soft and lacking sensation, mature nasal polyps have been described as looking like seedless, peeled grapes.

Nasal polyps usually appear on both sides of the nose.  A growth on only one side may be something else and would require diagnosis.

What they are not.

Nasal polyps should not be confused with the polyps that form in the colon or bladder.  Unlike these types of polyps, the nasal variety are rarely malignant. 

Nor should nasal polyps be confused with swollen turbinates, which are the normal tissue that lines the side of the nose. Unlike swollen turbinates, they’re not painful to the touch.

What causes nasal polyps?

Polyps are thought to result from a genetic tendency (e.g., they run in your family), or chronic inflammation that features swelling, redness and fluid buildup.  

Small nasal polyps may cause never cause symptoms and thus require no treatment. 

But larger nasal polyps can block normal drainage from the sinuses.  When too much mucus accumulates in the sinuses, it can become infected, which accounts for the thick, discolored drainage in the nose and down the throat that affects many people with nasal polyps.

Symptoms of nasal polyps?

Small polyps may not cause any symptoms. But as they grow, they may lead to:

  • Headaches.
  • Loss of smell or taste.
  • Nasal congestion (stuffy nose).
  • Nasal drainage (runny nose).
  • Nosebleeds.
  • Postnasal drip (constantly feeling like you have to clear your throat).
  • Pressure or pain in the sinuses, face or top teeth.
  • Snoring.

When polyps get big enough, they can block the nasal passages and sinuses, leading to:

  • Frequent asthma attacks in people with asthma.
  • Repeated sinus infections.
  • Sleep apnea or other trouble sleeping.
  • Trouble breathing, even in people who don’t have asthma.

How are nasal polyps treated?

The treatment goal for nasal polyps is to reduce their size or eliminate them. Medications are usually the first approach. 

If drug treatment doesn’t shrink or eliminate nasal polyps, you may need endoscopic surgery to remove polyps and to correct problems with your sinuses that make them prone to inflammation and the development of polyps, with the understanding that it may not provide a permanent solution because polyps tend to recur.

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