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Nasal Polyps

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A blocked nose that has been forever runny? It may be an indication of nasal polyps. These are fleshy growths in the nasal lining and sinuses. This article will answer most of your questions regarding these abnormal tissue growths.

What are Nasal Polyps?

The abnormal tissue that is painless and noncancerous in nature and grows within the nasal passage or sinuses is called as nasal polyps. These tissue growths appear like teardrops or grapes that are hanging down. They do not usually cause any symptoms, but as they increase in size, they lead to nasal blockage, runny nose, loss of sense of smell and even problems breathing.

Nasal polyps do not cause any pain and are not cancerous as the polyps growing in the colon or bladder. They are a tissue mass that grows from the mucous membranes of the nose and sinuses.

Types of Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are basically of two types, antrochoanal polyps and ethmoidal polyps. Let us have a quick look at these two types:

Antrochoanal Polyps

These polyps grow from the maxillary sinuses. This is the largest of the paranasal sinuses. They occur less commonly and are usually single growths. The antrochoanal polyps are more commonly observed in children than adults.

Ethmoidal Polyps

Ethmoidal polyps are growths from the ethmoidal sinuses. These are sinuses that are present behind the bridge of the nose. They are multiple growths that are very common in adults.

Causes of Nasal Polyps

The exact cause of nasal polyps is not yet known. It generally occurs due to chronic inflammation of the mucous membrane in the nose and sinuses. They are commonly associated with certain respiratory disorders like:

  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Asthma
  • Sinus infection
  • Presence of a foreign body in the nose
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Aspirin allergy
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome
  • Young’s syndrome
  • Exposure to chromium can also lead to these abnormal tissue growths

This condition is very common in people over the age of 40 and children over 10 years of age. It is possible that if the parents have it, the children too may develop it in their lives. At times, autoimmune system disorders can also trigger an attack to the sinus tissues or nasal lining, leading to nasal polyps.

Symptoms of Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps do not cause any symptoms when they are small. When these growths become larger in size and start blocking the nasal passage, one develops the symptoms. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Blocked nose
  • Breathing problems
  • Runny nose
  • Post-nasal drip, that is, mucus draining down the back of the nose
  • Reduction in sense of smell and taste
  • Facial pain and tenderness near the affected sinuses
  • Pain in jaw or toothache due to sinusitis
  • Fever
  • Snoring
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)
  • Double vision, a serious condition that occurs due to the presence of large polyps irritating the nerves and muscles of the eye

Diagnosis of Nasal Polyps

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Diagnosis nasal polyps are usually done based on patient complaints and physical examination of the nose. In some cases, diagnostic tests may be conducted. These include:

  • Patient, especially young children may be tested for cystic fibrosis.
  • An allergy test may be conducted to check for any allergies that leads to continuous inflammation of the sinuses
  • A nasal endoscopy carried out to check for polyps present in the nose
  • CT Scan or MRI to find the size and exact location of polyps present deep within the nasal cavity and sinuses

Treatment for Nasal Polyps

Small nasal polyps are treated using corticosteroid nasal drops. These drops help in reducing their size and causing them to shrink away. Larger polyps require the use of corticosteroid tablets and long term use of corticosteroid nasal sprays.

In case of people who suffer from side effects due to the steroids, they may be advised use of mometasone spray. After about 6 weeks of using either of these sprays, one may observe shrinking of the polyps.

If the symptoms do not improve and the polyps take time to shrink, surgery may be advised. An endoscopic surgery is carried out under general or local anesthesia. It takes just about 45 minutes to an hour for the surgery to be completed. Within 3 weeks, one may show complete recovery.

Small polyps growing near the opening of the nostrils are treated with polypectomy. This surgery is carried out under general anesthesia and the polyps are cut off with the help of wire loop or forceps. Nosebleeds are very common for about a month after surgery, but will subside as the nose heals.

Nasal polyps are easily treatable. One should speak to their doctor when they observe chronic runny and blocked nose. Polyps may grow back, thus it is important to seek medical advice in case they observe recurrence of the symptoms.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 23, 2015