Nasal polyps are small, noncancerous growths that form on the lining of the nasal passages or sinuses. Small polyps may go unnoticed and require no treatment, but larger ones can obstruct the sinuses and lead to infections and breathing problems.

Chronic sinusitis, allergies, and asthma are all frequently associated with nasal polyps. Symptoms include runny nose, congestion, postnasal drip, loss of smell and taste, facial pain and pressure, headache, pain in the upper teeth, itchy eyes, and snoring. If symptoms last longer than ten days and are not associated with a cold or allergies, make an appointment with the doctor. If left untreated, nasal polyps can cause complications such as obstructive sleep apnea, asthma attacks, meningitis, aneurysms, and blood clots.

It is unclear what causes nasal polyps. Some people are prone to chronic inflammation of the sinuses, and many of those individuals are predisposed toward developing polyps (while others never do). There is speculation that the immune systems of people with nasal polyps behave differently.

The doctor can diagnose polyps based on feedback regarding the patient’s symptoms and a visual examination of the nose. Diagnostic tests including nasal endoscopy, CT scan, MRI, and allergy tests can help pinpoint the size and location of nasal polyps, and whether they are being caused by allergies.

To treat polyps, the doctor or an ENT specialist will attempt to shrink them down to a manageable size through the use of medications to relieve inflammation, or the underlying condition responsible. Common drugs include nasal, oral, or injectable corticosteroids, antihistamines, and antibiotics. When medical treatment doesn’t work, surgery may be an option. Polyps are removed during an outpatient procedure called a polypectomy, or via more in-depth endoscopic sinus surgery.