What Are Nasal Polyps?
Nasal polyps are small “teardrop” shaped growths that can develop in the lining of your sinuses and nasal passages. They are typically painless and benign (not cancerous), but they can become larger or develop in clusters, which can lead to several problems, including:
- Difficulty breathing through your nose
- Post nasal drip
- Runny nose
- A loss of sense of smell and taste
- More frequent infections
- Facial pain
The exact cause of nasal polyps is still unknown, which often makes diagnosis, treatment, and management difficult. They are thought to be the result of chronic inflammation, which can be directly related to your body’s response to allergens and other conditions, such as asthma and repeated sinus infections. As well, age, gender, certain drug sensitivities, vitamin deficiencies, cystic fibrosis, and immune disorders are thought to be contributing factors in the development of nasal polyps.
What do nasal polyps look like?
Nasal polyps can vary in size. In most cases, they are too small and hidden in the sinuses to be seen by simply looking up the nose. However, larger polyps and ones located lower in the nasal passage may be visible upon close inspection. Nasal polyps typically resemble a hanging grape or a teardrop, and they can appear gray, yellow or pink in color.
What Causes Nasal Polyps?
The exact cause of nasal polyps is unknown, though it’s thought they may be directly related to chronic and prolonged inflammation in the nose and sinuses.
- Some research suggests that certain conditions, including seasonal allergies (allergic rhinitis), recurring sinus infections (chronic sinusitis), and asthma could be linked to their development.
- Age and gender also seem to be significant indicators of the potential onset of nasal polyps, with adult males being the most likely group of sufferers.
- And there is some evidence that suggests genetics, medical conditions, and aspirin hypersensitivity may be contributing factors to the development of nasal polyps.
Nasal Polyps Symptoms
People who suffer from nasal polyps often complain of chronic congestion, a “swollen nose,” and nasal obstructions. The severity of the congestion and discomfort is typically based on the size and location of the polyp.
Other common symptoms include a runny nose and post nasal drip, with some sufferers feeling like they constantly have a cold.
As well, some patients may experience a diminished or complete loss of their sense of smell and taste as a result of inflammation and blockages in the sinuses.
Nasal Polyps Treatment
Treatments for nasal polyps focus on three main areas: symptom relief, size reduction, and complete removal.
Treat Nasal Polyps at Home
Patients with mild to moderate symptoms from nasal polyps may find relief using natural treatments at home before turning to medications.
Nasal Cleansing and Irrigation
Many sufferers find that nasal cleansing and irrigation with a nasal nebulizer is an effective way to naturally clear congestion and blockages in the sinuses. And many get relief from inflammation and irritation by using the device to apply a nasal safe moisturizer.
Another natural treatment for nasal polyps is steam inhalation. Taking a hot shower or bath, using a personal steamer, or going to a steam room may help reduce inflammation and relieve congestion.
Medications for Nasal Polyps
Healthcare professionals may suggest either over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications to alleviate symptoms, reduce inflammation, and shrink polyps.
In order to reduce inflammation and shrink nasal polyps, doctors often recommend corticosteroids as a primary step in treatment. These medications typically come in three forms and may sometimes be combined based on the severity of the polyps.
- Topical steroids are delivered directly into your nasal passages and sinuses. They can be applied in different ways, including drops, sprays, nebulizers, and inhalers. These medications are often available by prescription or over-the-counter.
- Oral steroids are sometimes prescribed for more serious cases of nasal polyps. However, long term use can lead to unwanted side effects.
- Injectable steroids, like oral steroids, are typically prescribed for more serious cases.
Antihistamines and Decongestants
Your healthcare professional might recommend using antihistamines and decongestants to treat underlying conditions, such as seasonal allergies, that may be contributing to the severity of nasal polyps. These medications are typically available over-the-counter (OTC).
Saline rinses are an effective way to eliminate blockages and relieve congestion. Saline rinses are most effective when delivered directly to the afflicted areas. Moisturizers can also be used to reduce irritation and swelling. See here for more information on saline rinses and their applications.
Aspirin intolerance seems to be directly related to the risk of developing nasal polyps. Therefore, aspirin desensitization, which involves taking increasing amounts of aspirin over a period of time, can be used to allow the body to adapt. Aspirin desensitization should only be performed under direct supervision of your doctor. Do not attempt this procedure on your own.
Surgery for Nasal Polyps
In certain cases, your physician may recommend surgery to remove the polyps if they continue to be problematic. Nasal polyp removal is performed through endoscopic surgery, typically as an outpatient procedure. Surgery may be necessary to remove polyps and other substances that create congestion, and to correct sinus issues that may contribute to future problems. Never try to remove nasal polyps at home — always consult your doctor if you are experiencing sinus issues or breathing problems.
Prevent Nasal Polyps
For some sufferers, it may not be entirely possible to prevent nasal polyps from recurring. However, with proper nasal hygiene and avoidance of irritants and allergens, it may be possible to reduce their frequency and severity.
- A person suffering from nasal polyps can use a nasal nebulizer to manage conditions, such as chronic sinus infections and seasonal allergies, which can help with the treatment and prevention of nasal polyps in the future.
- Other techniques, like staying indoors and wearing a proper mask when outside, are also effective for preventing flare ups.
- Avoid foods or beverages that may cause sinus issues to become worse, such as certain dairy products and alcoholic beverages.
- Monitor air quality reports and environmental conditions and, if possible, stay indoors when conditions are bad.
- Avoid smoke, chemicals, and other toxins that may trigger sinus issues.