Nasal polyps are soft, sac-like growths on the lining of the nose or sinuses.
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:
If you have small polyps, you may not have any symptoms. If polyps block nasal passages, a sinus infection can develop.
With polyps, you may feel like you always have a head cold.
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider will look in your nose. They may need to perform nasal endoscopy to see the full extent of the polyps. 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.
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.
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.
Complications may include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if you often find it hard to breathe through your nose.
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.
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Haddad J, Dodhia SN. Nasal polyps. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 406.
Murr AH. Approach to the patient with nose, sinus, and ear disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 398.
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.
Review Date: 8/12/2019
Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. 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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