Someone experiencing nasal polyps symptoms.

Diagnosing and Treating Nasal Polyps

What are Nasal Polyps?

Nasal polyps are soft, painless sacs of fluid and tissue. They line the inside of your nose or your sinuses, causing problems with breathing, smelling and more. They affect at least 4% of the general population, mostly in patients older than 20. They are uncommon in children. If they are close to the front of your nose, you can use a mirror to find them.

Small nasal polyps may go unnoticed for years since they will not cause symptoms. By the time you decide to go see a doctor when symptoms occur, surgery could be your only treatment option.


  • Constant draining from your nose
  • Sinus pressure
  • Frequent sinus infections (more than two per year)
  • Complete or partial loss of smell
  • Partial or complete inability to breathe through your nose, forcing you to breathe through your mouth
  • Losing your sense of taste
  • Pain in your upper teeth
  • Development of snoring
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Itchy skin around your eyes
  • Headaches


The causes for this condition are unknown. Perfectly healthy people can get polyps. There are a few theories on what causes polyps.

Abnormal Immune Systems

People who have nasal polyps have different immune system responses and different chemicals in their mucous membranes than those who do not have polyps. This may or may not be related to the cause of polyps.

Fluid Buildup

This is when the lining of your sinuses swells and turns red once inflamed, causing fluid to buildup and start dripping. The fluid may not drip out fast enough, causing a polyp to form. Fluid can also build up in a tiny space between mucus producing cells in your sinuses until gravity pulls the cells down, creating a polyp.


A certain combination of inherited genes and health conditions might make This condition more likely to occur.

Health Conditions Associated With Nasal Polyps

Sometimes they can occur by themselves. In most cases, a will have one of the following health conditions.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder. If your polyps grow big enough, you will not be able to breathe through your nose. Due to this, you will not be able to sleep, causing chronic fatigue and other issues.


This condition can either occur after a person has been diagnosed with asthma, or before the onset of adult asthma. Up to 45% of adults who find out they have nasal polyps are afterwards diagnosed with adult-onset asthma.

Chronic Sinusitis

Sinusitis occurs when your sinuses become inflamed. This can be due to an infection or allergies. If sinusitis lasts longer than 12 weeks, it is considered chronic sinusitis. As a result of the prolonged inflammation, nasal polyps usually develop.

Aspirin Intolerance

There is a small subgroup of people who simultaneously have asthma and chronic sinusitis. For members of this group, ingesting aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) causes shortness of breath and worsening nasal symptoms, including larger nasal polyps. Common NSAIDs include aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin).

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes thick mucus to buildup in your airways. The mucus buildup makes infection and sinus inflammation more likely. 10% to 50% of people with cystic fibrosis have nasal polyps.


Any allergy which results in inflamed sinuses can cause nasal polyps. Fungi allergies in the southern United States are a common example.

How to Diagnose Nasal Polyps

The diagnosis is usually easy, except in cases where nasal polyps have developed deep in your sinuses. Your doctor can find out if you have nasal polyps by looking up your nose with a flashlight. One of the following diagnostic methods may be used to achieve nasal polyps diagnosis.


A CT scan of your nose can determine the exact size and location of polyps deep in your sinuses. If a CT scan is not enough, then an MRI scan will be done. Scans can rule out cancerous growths.

Nasal Endoscopy

A thin line with a small camera at the front is inserted into your nose. This lets doctors see your nasal polyps to confirm the findings of a CT scan or discover hidden polyps.

Allergy Test

If your doctor thinks allergies may be causing your nasal polyps, they may do an allergy test. Tiny drops of liquid allergens are pricked into the skin of your forearm or upper back. Your doctor or nurse then observes your skin for signs of allergic reactions.

Cystic Fibrosis Test

A child diagnosed with polyps should be tested for cystic fibrosis. The test is non-invasive and simple. Your child’s sweat will be compared to that of a person without cystic fibrosis.

Treatment Options

There is no cure for nasal polyps. Polyps might return after treatment. Medications in the form of nasal sprays or tablets can be used, as well as surgery to physically remove the polyps. The best way to treat nasal polyps is to prevent them from happening in the first place. If you already have polyps, prevention methods can still help relieve your symptoms. Good treatment methods are:

  • Rinsing Your Nose. Rinsing your nose with a saline spray will help improve the flow of mucus and remove irritants and allergens.
  • Avoiding irritants and allergens. Avoiding anything that can inflame your sinuses will help prevent polyps.
  • Maintaining proper treatment of other health conditions. If you properly treat a health condition linked to polyps, such as asthma, you will be less likely to get polyps.

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