Nasal polyps are soft, noncancerous growths in the lining of your nasal passage or sinuses. They can affect those of all ages but are most common in young and middle-aged adults. The polyps can range in size from small, unnoticeable growths to large polyps that can completely block your airflow.Inflammation within the lining of the nose and sinuses is thought to cause polyp formation. Asthma, allergies and sinus infections are usually responsible for the inflammation.
Small polyps can go unnoticed and produce no side effects. As the polyps get larger they can cause a runny nose, a feeling of stuffiness, a postnasal drip, loss of your sense of smell, headache and snoring. Large growths or a combination of multiple smaller ones can block the nasal passage. If these symptoms last longer than 10 days you should contact your doctor.
In order to diagnose a nasal polyp, your doctor will review your medical history and complete a physical exam. If the polyps are not immediately visible, a nasal endoscopy will be performed. A flexible tube with a lighted camera on the end (endoscope) will be inserted into your nasal cavity. This will give your doctor a detailed view of what is going on. If the polyps are too deep within the nasal cavity for the endoscope to reach, imaging may be needed. Not only can a CT scan or an MRI help your doctor see even deeper into your nasal canal, these tests can help to determine if something else is obstructing the passage, such as a cancerous growth.
The first line of defense towards nasal polyps is medication. A nasal corticosteroid spray can help to reduce inflammation; this should work to shrink or completely eliminate the polyps. If the spray does not work, the next step would be an oral corticosteroid. Oral steroids can have serious side effects so these drugs should be used for only a short period of time. If the drugs do not reduce the size of the polyps, surgery may be required. Surgery can usually be performed endoscopically as an outpatient procedure. An endoscope is inserted through the nostril and the polyp and any other obstruction is removed.