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Nasal Polyps: Are They Serious?

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Some people experience nasal congestion quite often. No allergy medication or over-the-counter drugs provide relief to nasal congestion. Some experience continuous colds that seem to not go away. All these are caused by a condition called nasal polyps. 

Nasal polyps affect 1-4% of the world population. When compared to children, this condition is more common among adults, especially those above 30. The nasal polyp is normally linked to other conditions in the nose like asthma and other respiratory infections. 

What Are Nasal Polyps?

Nasal polyps are small, painless, benign growths that appear on the sinus or nasal passage lining. They hang down from the lining and can be round or teardrop shaped. These polyps form from the mucous membrane. Sometimes the polyp becomes swollen and blocks the sinus or nasal passage. 

Nasal polyps normally grow on both sides of the nose and are commonly found in adults when they reach their 30s or 40’s. 

What Are The Causes Of Nasal Polyps?

The nose contains mucosa, a wet layer that protects the inside of the nose and keeps it moist. If you develop an irritation or allergy in the nose, the mucosa gets swollen and produces fluid that drips out. If the irritation persists, a small, painless growth appears on the mucosa, which is the nasal polyp. 

Some people might develop nasal polyps without any trigger. However, often any of the below conditions can be a triggering factor for nasal polyp:

  • Asthma
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Recurring sinus infection
  • Sensitivity to certain anti-inflammatory drugs

What Are The Symptoms Of Nasal Polyps?

In most cases, you may not know that a nasal polyp is growing inside as it does not have any nerve sensation. You will only realise that a nasal polyp has developed when you notice any of the below symptoms:

  • Runny nose that continues for a long time
  • A feeling of nose blockage
  • Nasal congestion
  • Inability to smell properly
  • Snoring
  • Having to breathe through the mouth

In extreme cases, nasal polyps can cause obstructive sleep apnea, sinus infection and asthma flare-ups. 

Who Are At Risk Of Developing Nasal Polyps?

Since the main cause of nasal polyps is inflammation in the nasal passage, any person with a condition that can contribute to such inflammation will be at risk. This includes people diagnosed with:

  • Asthma
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Aspirin sensitivity
  • Vitamin D deficiency

How Are Nasal Polyps Diagnosed?

A nasal polyp is not easily visible because of its location. The doctor will examine your nose using a nasal endoscope to detect the polyp. 

Sometimes, the doctor may also prescribe a CT or an MRI scan to get a clearer picture of the size and location of the polyp. These scans also reveal whether the polyp has affected the bones in that area. Other medically serious growths can also be detected through MRI or CT scans. 

What Are The Treatments Available For Nasal Polyps?

Medication

Since inflammation is the major cause of nasal polyp, treating the inflammation helps reduce the polyp size. Nasal steroid sprays are effective in reducing the symptoms of polyps like runny nose and blockage. A few of the nasal steroids that are used for polyps are Nasonex, Flonase and Rhinocort. 

If nasal steroid sprays are not effective, oral or injectable steroids can be used. Antihistamines are also effective in reducing allergies that may cause inflammation. 

Surgery

If medication is not effective in treating nasal polyps, surgery is the next option. The size of the polyp determines the type of surgery. Doctors can remove smaller polyps through outpatient procedures like a polypectomy. In the case of large polyps, endoscopic sinus surgery can be performed to remove them. 

Once the surgery is complete and you have recovered, you can use nasal sprays to prevent a recurrence. 

How To Prevent Nasal Polyps?

Avoid irritants

Nasal irritants can cause inflammation of the nasal passage resulting in nasal polyps. Thus, try to avoid irritants like tobacco smoke, dust, chemicals and other allergens. 

Maintain good hygiene

Personal hygiene is very important to prevent infection and inflammation of the nasal passage. Do not clean your nose with unclean hands. Poor personal hygiene can cause bacterial or viral infection which can later lead to inflammation of the nasal passage.

Avoid breathing in too much dry air

If you feel that the air around is dry, use a humidifier to moisten the air. Breathing dry air can cause irritation to the nasal passage leading to inflammation. While using a humidifier, make sure to clean it thoroughly to prevent the breeding of bacteria. 

Use a saline water rinse

Rinsing the nose with saline water helps to get rid of irritants and improve the mucus flow. A saline spray or nasal wash can be used for rinsing. 

Are Nasal Polyps Serious?

A nasal polyp is not a serious condition, but it can cause a lot of inconveniences. If the polyp grows to become too large, it can affect normal breathing. Similarly, they can block the normal mucus flow, resulting in infection and worsening of the sinus. 

Conclusion

If you experience any of the symptoms of a nasal polyp that does not subside within ten days, it is best to consult a doctor. The doctor will do a thorough examination to diagnose the condition and rule out any other complications. Medicine or surgery may be prescribed depending on the size of the polyp.

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