Don Beasley, MD

Nasal/Sinus Polyps

What are Nasal/Sinus Polyps?

Nasal or sinus polyps are soft, benign growths found inside the lining of the sinuses or the nasal cavity. They can grow singly but often grow in clusters and resemble tiny grapes. They are usually found on both sides of the person’s nose.



How do You Get Them?

Nasal polyps can be caused when the lining of the nose and sinuses are chronically inflamed. Inflammation is the body’s response to an infection or an injury, but medical professionals don't know exactly why inflammation in the nose leads to the growth of polyps.



What are the Symptoms?

Sometimes there are no symptoms. If there are, they include:

  • A feeling that the nose is stuffed up.
  • Reduced sense of smell.
  • Headache or pain in the face.
  • Nasal discharge.
  • Itching eyes.
  • Sneezing.
  • A sense of fullness in the person’s face.
  • If the polyp is large, it may distort the person’s nose.

How are They Diagnosed?

A person can check to see if they have nasal polyps, then go to their doctor to make sure that they are benign polyps and not something else. The doctor will examine the inside of the person’s nose and may order a CT scan or an endoscopy. These technologies allow the doctor to see inside the nose. Some doctors test their patients for allergies.



How are They Treated?

If the polyps are troublesome, the doctor may prescribe medicines to help shrink them and reduce the symptoms. Sometimes, surgery is need to remove the polyps. The type of the surgery depends on where the polyps are, their size and how many there are.

Removal of nasal polyps is called nasal polypectomy. The surgeon who performs this operation is called an otolaryngologist.

Before the surgery, the patient is given general or a local anesthesia. The surgeon then opens the nose with a speculum, finds the polyps, clamps them and removes them with a wire snare or loop. Any bleeding is controlled by electrocautery. The surgeon then packs the nose to staunch the bleeding. The packing can either be absorbed into the body or removed after about one or two days. Nasal polypectomy is an outpatient procedure, and the patient usually makes a full recovery after about two weeks.



What are the Complications?

Complications usually occur after surgery, and they include excessive bleeding or the chance that the polyps will grow back. Some polyps grow large enough to interfere with the patient’s breathing and prevent mucus from draining from the nose.



Can Nasal Polyps be Prevented?

Nasal polyps can’t be prevented, but the patient can use a salt water spray or lavage to wash allergens and other irritants from their nasal passages. This helps to prevent inflammation, which is a cause of nasal polyps. The patient should also avoid places where their nose or sinuses can become irritated, such as smoke filled or dust filled rooms. They should use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and wash their bed linens in hot water to destroy dust mites. Some people develop nasal polyps due to a sensitivity to aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. For some reason, these drugs cause the nasal passages to swell, which leads to inflammation.

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