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What are nasal polyps?

What are nasal polyps?

Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Shuba Iyengar
Dr. Shuba Iyengar
After graduating from UC Berkeley, Shuba completed medical school at Duke University, earning her MPH in tandem at UNC. After a research fellowship at the NIH, Shuba completed her residency at Stanford, then fellowship in allergy-immunology at Boston Childrens/Harvard.

Nasal polyps are soft, painless, noncancerous growths that line the nasal passages or sinuses. These growths are typically the result of chronic inflammation and can vary in size from small to large. But what exactly are nasal polyps and how do they affect individuals?

Nasal polyps, though benign, can cause a variety of symptoms including nasal congestion, runny nose, postnasal drip, reduced sense of smell, and even snoring or sleep apnea if they become large enough to obstruct the airways. While the exact cause of nasal polyps isn't always clear, they are often linked to conditions like asthma, allergies, chronic sinus infections, or certain immune disorders.

Managing nasal polyps usually involves a combination of treatments such as nasal corticosteroid sprays, oral steroids, saline nasal irrigation, and in some cases, surgery to remove the polyps. It's important for individuals experiencing symptoms associated with nasal polyps to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan to alleviate discomfort and improve quality of life.

Understanding Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps develop when the mucous membranes in the nose or sinuses become inflamed and swollen over a long period of time. This chronic inflammation can be triggered by various factors such as allergies, asthma, recurring infections, or certain immune disorders.

Symptoms of Nasal Polyps

Symptoms of nasal polyps can include persistent nasal congestion, which can make breathing through the nose difficult. This congestion often leads to a runny nose and postnasal drip, where mucus continuously drips down the back of the throat.

In addition to these symptoms, individuals with nasal polyps may also experience a reduced sense of smell or taste, facial pain or pressure, and frequent headaches. Snoring is another common symptom, as the presence of nasal polyps can obstruct the airways during sleep, leading to noisy breathing patterns. In severe cases, nasal polyps can cause significant breathing difficulties, especially if the polyps grow large enough to block the nasal passages entirely. This obstruction can contribute to conditions like sleep apnea, where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep, impacting overall quality of rest and health. It is essential for individuals experiencing these symptoms to seek medical evaluation and appropriate treatment to manage nasal polyps effectively.

Nasal Polyps Diagnosis

A healthcare provider can diagnose nasal polyps by conducting a physical examination of the nasal passages and sinuses. Sometimes, imaging tests such as CT scans or MRIs are utilized to obtain a more detailed view of the nasal polyps and determine their size.

Treatment Options

In addition to medication and surgery, other treatment options for nasal polyps may include nasal irrigation to help clear the nasal passages, allergy medications to manage symptoms, and avoiding triggers that may exacerbate the condition. It is important for individuals with nasal polyps to work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and helps to improve their overall quality of life. Regular follow-up appointments and monitoring may also be recommended to track progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan. Remember, with proper management and care, nasal polyps can be effectively treated and symptoms can be well controlled.


Nasal Polyps FAQ


What causes nasal polyps?

The exact cause of nasal polyps is not fully understood, but they are often linked to chronic inflammation in the nasal passages and sinuses. Conditions such as asthma, allergies, cystic fibrosis, and certain immune disorders can increase the risk of developing nasal polyps.


Can Nasal Polyps Recur?

Unfortunately, nasal polyps have a tendency to recur even after successful treatment. It's important for individuals with a history of nasal polyps to work closely with their healthcare provider to manage symptoms and prevent the growths from coming back.


How are nasal polyps diagnosed?

Nasal polyps are usually diagnosed through a physical examination of the nose and sinuses. In some cases, a nasal endoscopy or imaging tests like CT scans may be used to confirm the presence of polyps.


Can nasal polyps be treated?

Treatment for nasal polyps may include medications such as corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, nasal sprays to shrink the polyps, or in some cases, surgery to remove the polyps. It is important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the best treatment plan based on the individual's symptoms and medical history.


Are nasal polyps common?

Nasal polyps are relatively common, affecting about 1-4% of the population. They are more common in adults than in children, and individuals with certain underlying conditions may be at a higher risk of developing nasal polyps.



While nasal polyps can be a chronic and bothersome condition, they are manageable with the right treatment and care. By understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for nasal polyps, individuals can take proactive steps to improve their quality of life and respiratory health.


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