Nasal polyps are soft fleshy swellings that grow inside the nose. They may be yellowish, grey or pink in color. They are common and are not cancerous (that is, they are benign). Nasal polyps can vary greatly in size. There may be only one but sometimes several grow like a 'small bunch of grapes' on a stem.
In most cases the cause is not known. It is thought that ongoing (chronic) inflammation in the nose causes overgrowth of the lining of the nostril. Certain conditions which cause nose inflammation and polyps include:
- Allergy to aspirin
- Cystic fibrosis
- Some rare conditions of the nose
- The main symptom is a blocked feeling in the nose.
- Watering from the nose (rhinorrhoea) is common.
- A 'post nasal drip'(sensation of something continually running down the back of your throat due to mucus coming from the back of large polyps) may occur.
- Your sense of smell and taste may be dulled or lost.
- A blocked nose may make your voice sound different.
- Larger polyps may cause headaches and snoring.
- Very large untreated polyps can enlarge your nose and front of your face.
- Sometimes polyps block the drainage channel of the sinuses. This can make you more prone to sinusitis (infection of the sinuses).
- Large polyps sometimes interfere with breathing at night and cause obstructive sleep apnoea.
- Nose drops: Nose drops reduce inflammation in the nose. These sometimes take effect over a few days. However, it may take a week or so to notice an improvement as the polyps gradually shrink. It is important to use the drops exactly as prescribed for the best chance of success.
- Steroid tablets: Sometimes a course of steroid tablets is prescribed for a week or so to reduce inflammation in the nose. This often works very well to shrink the polyps.
- Surgery: An operation may be advised if polyps are large, or if steroid nose drops or tablets have not worked. This involves removing the polyps with a surgical instrument. This can be done under a local or general anesthetic. Some people may have two or more operations in their life to remove recurring nasal polyps. Although the polyps are not in themselves usually serious, one may get a great relief of symptoms when polyps are removed.
- Keeping polyps away with steroid nose sprays: Some people are prone to develop recurring nasal polyps. Therefore, some people use a steroid nasal spray each day. This usually prevents inflammation and polyps from developing in the nose. A nasal spray is more convenient to use than nasal drops. Regular use of a steroid nasal spray is thought to be safe. However, steroid nose drops are stronger than sprays and are better at clearing polyps if they do recur.
There is usually no prevention for polyps but avoiding blocked nose and allergens can help.