Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are small noncancerous growths of inflamed tissue that develop on the lining of the nose or sinuses. Small nasal polyps may not cause any problems but larger ones can make breathing difficult and may lead to a decreased sense of smell and taste. Nasal polyps themselves aren't a disease but rather the result of a viral or bacterial infection, allergies or an immune system response.

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Symptoms

Symptoms of nasal polyps may include:

  • Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Runny nose
  • Persistent nasal stuffiness
  • Loss or diminished sense of smell and taste
  • Headaches
  • Snoring
  • Sinus Pressure

Causes and Risk Factors

Having a condition that causes chronic inflammation in the nose or sinuses is the biggest risk factor for nasal polyps. 

Nasal polyps are more common in adults and children with conditions such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, hay fever or chronic sinusitis. They are also more common in adults over 40 years of age.

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Diagnosis

A physician will typically perform a physical examination and take a complete medical history.

Additional testing may include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan - CT scans obtain images of the facial area from various angles using special X-ray equipment to help identify tumors, cysts, polyps, inflammatory diseases and other structural abnormalities.
  • Nasal endoscopy - With nasal endoscopy, a small camera is inserted into the nose to examine the nasal passages.
  • Allergy skin testing
  • Laboratory tests to identify chronic conditions such as cystic fibrosis.
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Treatments

For small polyps, corticosteroid nasal spray may be prescribed to relieve inflammation and reduce the size of the polyps. For larger polyps or when medications aren't effective, functional endoscopic sinus surgery may be required to remove the nasal polyps and the accompanying infection.

Endoscopic surgery typically preserves more surrounding normal tissue than traditional 'open' surgeries. The surgeon inserts a thin lighted tube (endoscope) into the nasal cavity or sinus, rather than opening the area with an incision. The image is enlarged on a computer screen and small (micro) instruments are used with the endoscope. to remove diseased tissue and polyps.

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