Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps

What are nasal polyps?

A nasal polyp, or growth, is formed when the soft tissue of the sinuses becomes swollen and expands to fill the available space inside the nose. There may be one, or several polyps in the nose.

"Polyps originate in the sinuses and extend into the nostrils".

What causes them?

The exact cause of nasal polyps is not known. Some medical opinion suggests that they are the result of an allergy to something in the atmosphere, while others believe they are caused by infection in the sinuses.

What are the symptoms?

Since polyps are growths inside the nose which actually block the nose, the most obvious symptom will be the sensation of having a severely blocked nose. This will interfere with nasal breathing, forcing the patient to breathe through his mouth. People with nasal polyps tend to snore and may experience apnoea attacks during their sleep. Polyps may also interfere with the sense of smell and cause nasal intonation to the person's speech.

How are they detected?

The nose can become blocked for a number of reasons and anyone who is suffering from a severely blocked nose for a prolonged period of time should seek medical advice.

Inspection of the nose will reveal the presence of nasal polyps and your GP will probably refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for further investigation.

How are they treated?

Nasal sprays and drops containing steroids may be prescribed for patients who only have a single, small polyp in their nose. The single, most effective treatment for nasal polyps is surgical removal. The polyps are accessed through the nostrils and they are removed though that route. This procedure is performed under general anaesthesia.

Does surgical removal carry risks?

All surgery carries a certain amount of risk and the same is true of polyp surgery.

The most common risk is the risk of bleeding from the nose. Some people may appear to have a black eye after surgery because of the use of instruments up through the nostrils.

Unfortunately there is no guarantee that nasal polyps will not grow again after surgical removal. Some people seem to be much more susceptible to this condition than others and the polyps may grow back again many years after surgery. A further episode of nasal surgery may then be required.

Some doctors recommend that their patients use a steroid nasal spray occasionally to prevent the recurrence of nasal polyps, although this may not actually prevent them from growing again.

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