What are nasal polyps?

Polyp generally refers to an extra outgrowth of fleshy material from one of the membranes of our body. They occur sometimes in the nasal passages as well as the colon and other internal organs. The polyps in the nasal passages are quite different in the nature than in other locations.

Most cases of nasal polyps are associated with allergies. However, in some patients, polyps may grow due to other environmental irritants. There are also people with genetic predisposition for more ready formation of polyps. It is thought that due to inflammatory changes within the membranes, the swelling of the membranes becomes so significant that parts of the membrane start to grow out, almost like a mushroom. This will usually keep growing as long as the environmental irritant or the allergy is still going on. In severe cases, nasal obstruction follows as well as issues with chronic sinus infections, headaches, and head pressure.

The first-line treatment for most polyps is prevention. Most patients with polyps should undergo allergy testing to attempt find their environmental irritants causing their inflammatory response. Avoiding exposure to these elements is already half the battle. Select patients may also benefit from allergy shots for long-term relief. On a more short-term basis, select medications have been shown to control or reduce the size of the polyps. The most effective class of medications are steroids, given either by spray through the nose or orally through the mouth, or a combination of both. Occasionally, antihistamines and antibiotics might be needed if there is evidence of excess inflammation or infection.

Unfortunately, despite significant medical therapy, some people’s polyps are so overgrown that medicines may not be effective in reducing the size. In some people with severe polyp formation, surgery might be necessary. This is usually done with endoscopic equipment under anesthesia. Most surgeons use an instrument which is called a microdebrider to remove pieces of the polyp down to their insertion. It is thought that by reducing the bulk of the polyps within the nasal passages, future medical therapy might be more effective in reducing the chance of recurrence of the polyps. However, patients were prone to polyp forming may have recurrence of their polyps from time-to-time. Close observation and tight medical therapy is the only remedy in this situation.

If you suspect that you are suffering from nasal polyps, your best bet is to see your Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist to confirm this diagnosis. Once diagnosed, any of the above regimens of treatments may be necessary to help you with the situation.

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Posted in: Sinuses

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