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Nasal Polyps

Alternate Names

  • nasal polyposis
  • Nasal polyps

Definition

Nasal polyps are growths in the nasal cavity. They often look like grapes or small balloons to a healthcare professional looking up the nostril with a lighted instrument.

What is going on in the body?

The nose acts as a filter, removing over 80% of particles in the air. A variety of agents entering the nose can cause inflammation. These agents include pollens, mold spores, animal dander, dust mites, dust, and dirt. Nasal polyps are the result of long-term, untreated nasal inflammation. Rarely, the polyps may protrude through the nostrils.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Many disorders can lead to nasal polyps, including:
  • asthma, a disease in which a person's airways constrict in response to various stimuli (the most common cause)
  • chronic allergies
  • sinusitis, particularly sinus infections caused by a fungus
  • cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease, one effect of which is plugged airways
  • sensitivity to aspirin
  • structural abnormalities of the nose

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

Prevention involves proper control of the underlying problem. A person with chronic bacterial sinusitis needs to take the appropriate antibiotics. Structural abnormalities within the nose can be corrected surgically.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

Large nasal polyps are easy for the healthcare professional to see during a nasal exam with a special instrument. CT scans can clarify the extent of the underlying problem.
Usually, nasal polyps are present in both sides of the nose. If a polyp only appears on one side, it may be malignant. In this case, a biopsy is needed to check for cancer.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Untreated nasal polyps can cause the drainage of fluid from the sinuses to be blocked, resulting in chronic sinusitis..Expanding mucus buildup can put pressure on the nerves that control eye movement and vision, leading to double vision or other visual impairments.
In addition, mucus buildup can eventually cause displacement of the eyeball in its socket. Sense of smell may become lost and asthma may become more difficult to manage.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

There are no risks to others, as the polyps are not contagious.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

Polyps can usually be reduced with long-term nasal steroid therapy and management of the underlying disorder. If an individual continues to have symptoms despite medical therapy, surgery may be recommended.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Side effects are specific to the medications used. Occasionally, nasal polyp surgery can be complicated by bleeding, infection, or injury to eye structures.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

The symptoms usually subside after medical treatment. However, new polyps often develop, especially in people with asthma. Children with cystic fibrosis usually continue to have difficulties with polyps.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

One of the earliest symptoms of polyp recurrence is the loss of sense of smell. If this occurs, a person should seek medical attention.
Because recurrence is common, it is helpful to monitor the rate of regrowth during regular office visits so that the right kind of therapy can be started in time. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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