Nasal polyps are swellings of the normal nasal lining that occur inside the nasal passages and sinuses (air-filled spaces behind the nose, eyes and cheeks).

They are typically pearly in colour and can vary in size. Each polyp is teardrop-shaped, and can look like a grape when fully grown.

You may not always know if you have nasal polyps because they can be difficult to see and don't always cause any symptoms.

What problems can they cause?

Nasal polyps usually only causeproblems if they are large orgrow in clusters.

Symptoms can include:

  • a blocked nose, which can make it difficult to breathe through your nose
  • a runny nose
  • mucus that drips from the back of your nose down your throat (post-nasal drip)
  • a Smell sense, loss of or taste
  • a feeling of fullness or pressure in the face
  • snoring
  • obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) your airways become temporarily blocked while you're asleep, which can disturb your sleep

If polyps block your sinuses, theycan cause a build-up of fluid thatmay become infected (sinusitis) . If this happens, you may have facial pain, toothache and a high temperature (fever).

When to see your GP

The symptoms of nasal polyps can be very similar to those of more common conditions, such as a cold . However, colds tend to clear up within a few days, whereasnasal polyps usually won't get betterunless they'retreated.

You should see your GP if you have nasal symptoms that last a month or more.

What causes nasal polyps?

Nasal polyps are thought to develop as a result of inflammation of the lining of the nasal passages and sinuses. The lining becomes increasingly swollen and then hangs down.

It's unclear exactly what triggers this inflammation, althoughcertain things can increase your risk of developing nasal polyps, including:

  • asthma 20-40% of people with nasal polyps also have asthma
  • aspirin intolerance allergy-like symptoms, such as a watery nose, occur if you take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) , such as ibuprofen

Nasal polyps usually affect adults andare more common in men than women. They're rare in children.

Diagnosing nasal polyps

Your GP will ask you about your symptoms and examinethe inside of yournose.

Further testscarried out at the ear, nose and throat (ENT) department of your local hospital will often be needed to confirm polyps and to determine how large they are and how many you have.

This will usually involve an endoscopy (where a small tube with a camera at one end is inserted up your nostril) or a computerised tomography (CT) scan .

Treating nasal polyps

Nasal polyps can be difficult to get rid of permanently, but steroid medication can often help shrink them, and surgery to remove them can be carried out if medication doesn't help.

The main treatments are:

  • corticosteroid nose drops or nasal sprays to shrinkthe polyps over a number of weeks or months
  • corticosteroid tablets to shrinklarger or more troublesomepolyps quickly, although they're not usuallyused for more than 10 days because of the risk of side effects
  • surgery to remove large orpersistent polyps using tiny surgical instruments inserted up your nostrils

As polyps can grow back after treatment, including after surgery, you will usually be advised to continue using corticosteroid nasal sprays to help stop them returning quickly.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016