Pronounced: NAY-suhl PAH-lip
Nasal polyps are growths that develop on the inside of your nose or sinuses. Nasal polyps are benign. But, there are certain tumors that present as simple polyps and should be evaluated by a specialist. You may have a single nasal polyp. Or, you may have several clustered together. Nasal polyps are soft and pearl-colored, with a texture like jelly. Nasal polyps can be treated. Contact your doctor if you think you have this condition.
Doctors do not know the cause of nasal polyps. Several factors may contribute to nasal polyps, including:
These risk factors increase your chance of developing nasal polyps. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
Very small nasal polyps may not cause any symptoms. Larger polyps may block the nose, making it difficult to breathe through the nose. They can also block the passage of odors and reduce the sense of smell.
If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to nasal polyps. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
- Mouth breathing
- A runny nose
- Constant stuffiness
- Loss or reduction of sense of smell or taste
- Dull headaches
It is important to see a doctor with special training in diagnosing and treating nasal polyps, called otorhinolaryngologists or ear, nose, and throat doctors. Your primary care doctor can refer you to a specialist.
The doctor will look at the inside of your nose to check for blockage. This physical exam may include:
- Putting cotton balls soaked in medicine inside your nose to reduce swelling or spraying the inside of your nose with an anesthetic medicine
- Using a small instrument to look inside the nose
- Gently pressing inside of the nose to check for swelling
The doctor will ask questions about:
- Your medicines
- Your personal and family medical history
Other tests include:
- CT scan]]> —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of polyps inside the nose and sinuses
- Sweat test—a test that measures the amount of sodium and chloride in the perspiration to check for ]]>cystic fibrosis]]>. Cystic fibrosis is rare, but it is more likely in children with nasal polyps.
- Allergy skin tests—to see whether you have allergies
- ]]>Biopsy]]> of the polyp—to confirm the diagnosis
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
- Nasal sprays (particularly those containing steroids) to reduce swelling, increase nasal airflow, and help shrink polyps
- Drugs to help reduce swelling and shrink polyps
- Drugs to control allergies or infection, such as antihistamines for allergies or antibiotics for a bacterial infection
- Polypectomy—removing nasal polyps; if the polyps are small, this can be done in your doctor's office. Unfortunately, polyps often recur.
- Endoscopic sinus surgery—removing the nasal polyps and opening the sinuses where the polyps form
If you are diagnosed with nasal polyps, follow your doctor's instructions .
There are no guidelines for preventing nasal polyps because the cause is unknown. But, there are several things you can do to reduce your chance of developing nasal polyps:
- For a stuffy or runny nose, use a preservative-free saline spray. This helps reduce irritation in the sinuses.
- If you have hay fever or another allergy, see your doctor for treatment. Avoid the substance that causes your allergy.
- If you have asthma or frequent sinus infections, take your medicine as your doctor suggests.
- If you have aspirin sensitivity, avoid all medicines that contain aspirin.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery
Allergy Asthma Information Association
Calgary Allergy Network
Adkinson N, Middleton E. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2003.
Cummings CW. Otolayrngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby; 2005.
Dalziel K, Stein K, Round A, Garside R, Royle P. Systematic review of endoscopic sinus surgery for nasal polyps. Health Technol Assess. 2003;7:1-159.
Larsen K. The clinical relationship of nasal polyps to asthma. Allergy Asthma Proc . 1996;17:243-249.
Lund VJ. Diagnosis and treatment of nasal polyps. BMJ. 1995;311:1411-1414.
Nasal polyps. Community Health Care Medical Library and Patient Education website. Available at: http://www.chclibrary.org . Accessed August 11, 2005.
Nasal polyps. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Accessed August 11, 2005.
Nasal polyps. Mayo Clinic website. Available at:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/invoke.cfm?id=DS00498. Accessed August 11, 2005.
Nasal polyps. US National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001641.htm. Accessed August 12, 2005.
Last reviewed November 2009 by ]]>Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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