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Nasal polyps

Nasal polyps are soft, sac-like growths on the lining of the nose or sinuses.

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Nasal polyps

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Causes

Nasal polyps can grow anywhere on the lining of the nose or the sinuses. They often grow where the sinuses open into the nasal cavity. Small polyps may not cause any problems. Large polyps can block your sinuses or nasal airway.

Nasal polyps are not cancer. They seem to grow due to long-term swelling and irritation in the nose from allergies, asthma, or infection.

No one knows exactly why some people get nasal polyps. If you have any of the following conditions, you may be more likely to get nasal polyps:

Symptoms

If you have small polyps, you may not have any symptoms. If polyps block nasal passages, a sinus infection can develop.

Symptoms include:

With polyps, you may feel like you always have a head cold.

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will look in your nose. Polyps look like a grayish grape-shaped growth in the nasal cavity.

You may have a CT scan of your sinuses. Polyps will appear as cloudy spots. Older polyps may have broken down some of the bone inside your sinuses.

Treatment

Medicines help relieve symptoms, but rarely get rid of nasal polyps.

If medicines don't work, or you have very large polyps, you may need surgery to remove them.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Removing polyps with surgery often makes it easier to breathe through your nose. Over time, however, nasal polyps often return.

Loss of smell or taste does not always improve following treatment with medicine or surgery.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you often find it hard to breathe through your nose.

Prevention

You can't prevent nasal polyps. However, nasal sprays, antihistamines, and allergy shots may help prevent polyps that block your airway. Newer treatments such as injection therapy with anti-IGE antibodies may help prevent polyps from coming back. 

Treating sinus infections right away also may help.

Related Information

Mucosa
Stuffy or runny nose - adult
Stuffy or runny nose - children
Asthma
Allergic rhinitis
Cystic fibrosis

References

Bachert C, Calus L, Gevaert P. Rhinosinusitis and nasal polyps. In: Adkinson NF, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 43. 

Rosenfeld RM, Piccirillo JF, Chandrasekhar SS, et al. Clinical practice guideline (update): adult sinusitis executive summary. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015;152(4):598-609. PMID: 25833927 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25833927.

Soler ZM, Smith TL. Results of medical and surgical treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis with and without nasal polyps. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 44.

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Review Date: 8/1/2017  

Reviewed By: Ashutosh Kacker, MD, FACS, Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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