Nasal polyps are painless, noncancerous growths that develop in the mucosal lining of the nose and the sinuses, the hollow chambers in the bones around your nose. While they don’t always cause symptoms, they can become swollen and inflamed, interfering with your breathing and necessitating treatment.
Otolaryngologists Dr. James Osborne and Dr. Bryan Smedley of Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat in Surprise, Arizona, see many cases of nasal polyps. While they always start with conservative treatment options, they specialize in minimally invasive sinus surgery, such as the removal of nasal polyps. Here’s more about the growths and how they’re treated.
What causes nasal polyps to form?
The mucosal tissue protects the inside of your nose and sinuses by producing mucus that traps pathogens and debris, and that humidifies the air you breathe in. Medical researchers believe that either allergies or infections cause the inflammation of this layer. With prolonged irritation, the mucosa may also form small, round or teardrop-shaped, fluid-filled growths — polyps.
While you can certainly develop polyps without previous nasal problems, there’s usually a trigger, such as:
- Chronic or recurring sinus infections
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
- Sensitivity to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen and aspirin
The polyps usually develop on both sides of the nose. If you have a growth on just one side, it’s more likely to be something else, such as a cancerous growth. It’s important you come into the office to have it evaluated.
What symptoms do nasal polyps produce?
Polyps often occur where the upper sinuses drain into your nose (the junction where your eyes, nose, and cheekbones meet). The growths themselves are painless, but they can produce other issues.
The sinuses lack nerves, so you might not know the polyp is there until or unless it blocks your nasal passages and causes chronic congestion. If it grows that large, you may experience:
- A feeling your nose is blocked
- A stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
- A runny nose
- Postnasal drip, where excess mucus runs down the back of your throat
- Reduced sense of smell
- Pressure in your forehead or face
- The need to breathe through your mouth
- Sleep apnea
You may also experience facial pain or headaches if you have a sinus infection in addition to the polyp.
If you have symptoms such as those listed above, your doctor examines your nasal passages to determine if the cause is polyps or something more serious, such as a tumor or structural deformity. In addition, he may use allergy tests to determine the cause of your persistent nasal inflammation, treating the problem at its source.
How do you treat nasal polyps?
Your Oasis ENT otolaryngologist may start treatment by prescribing medications that reduce inflammation, such as nasal steroid sprays, thereby reducing the size of the polyp and relieving congestion. The problem is, if you stop taking them, your symptoms can return quickly.
An oral or injectable steroid, like prednisone, may also be an option, but it’s not a long-term solution because of serious side effects, such as increased blood pressure and elevated eye pressure, which can lead to glaucoma.
If you have allergies or sinus infections that cause inflammation in the nose, the doctor may recommend antihistamines or antibiotics to treat them.
If your polyps don’t resolve with conservative treatments, surgery can remove the polyps completely. The Oasis otolaryngologists perform two different procedures:
1. Endoscopic sinus surgery
In this minimally invasive surgery, the doctor inserts an endoscope through your nostrils to look at your nasal passageways. Slim tools inserted next to the scope remove any polyps obstructing your sinuses. There are different types of endoscopic sinus surgery, but your doctor will discuss what his exact approach will be with you beforehand.
2. Balloon sinus dilation
This minimally invasive procedure uses small balloons to expand the sinuses at various points, allowing the doctor to remove any polyps obstructing them.
Following surgery, you can use nasal sprays and saline washes that reduce inflammation to prevent polyps from returning.
If you’re having a hard time breathing, you may have one or more nasal polyps obstructing your airway. Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat can help. Give our office a call at 623-234-4640 to set up a consultation with one of our otolaryngologists, or book online with us today.