What is a Nasal Polyp – Growth in the Nose Cavity, Sinus

A nasal polyp is a small outgrowth of the mucous membrane tissue that lines the nasal passages and sinus cavities. When this tissue is constantly inflamed and swollen, a polyp may develop although the exact cause of the polyp formation is not known. While the term ‘growth in the nose or sinus’ seems serious, nasal polyps are not cancerous tumors but may sometimes occur in cases of neoplasms of the nose or paranasal sinuses.

Certain conditions like hay fever, infections or sinusitis cause a swelling of the nasal and sinus lining. This mucous membrane lines the entire nose and sinus and usually produces mucus to keep the lining moist and trap any foreign matter entering through the nose. When irritated, the mucus membrane lining will often swell and produce excess mucusĀ  (‘runny, leaky or stuffed nose’). In these situations, a polyp may form from this inflamed nasal lining and starts off as a tiny ‘bump’ which can slowly grow into a small ‘lump’.

A nasal polyp may occur anywhere in the cavity of the nose or paranasal sinuses but is most often seen near the opening of the maxillary sinus. It is less commonly noted near the ethmoidal sinus. A nasal polyp is an outgrowth of the mucous membrane tissue lining the cavity and not a growth of deeper tissue.

Nasal Polyps in the Paranasal Sinuses

Causes of Nasal Polyps

The exact reason for a polyp to develop is unknown but it is more likely to occur in these conditions :

  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Acute infections like a common cold, influenza and any other short term infections of the nose or paranasal sinus. Often, a nasal polyp may regress after the infection resolves.
  • Chronic infections especially of the paranal sinuses
  • Sinusitis from infections or allergies
  • Benign or malignant tumors of the nose

Signs and Symptoms

Nasal polyps may occur with no noticeable symptoms or it may cause symptoms similar to other nasal conditions.

  • Runny, stuffed or blocked nose (nasal congestion)
  • Reduced or loss of sense of smell (anosmia)
  • Itching, watery eyes
  • Nasal tone of the voice
  • Headaches or tenderness when pressure is applied over the sinus
  • Bloody mucus may be noticed due to the inflamed nasal lining rather than to the polyp itself.

Treatment of Nasal Polyps

Treatment should be directed at the cause of nasal or sinus inflammation to reduce swelling of the mucous membranes. In terms of allergies, this may commence with antihistamines and corticosteroids while infections may require antiviral drugs, antibiotics or antifungal agents. In cases of nasal polyps where no clear cause can be identified for the swelling of the nasal lining, your doctor may start you on a course of corticosteroids. This should reduce the nasal swelling and may possibly allow for the polyp to reduce in size or regress. Nasal polyp surgery is usually required followed by a corticosteroids to prevent the polyp from recurring.

  • raghu76

    Hi,
    I have a patient, 50 Yrs old, surgically removed the Polyps from Ethmoid sinuses.
    This person works in smoky & dusty place, pls let me know what are the chances of reoccurance here and what shall be recommended treatment.
    regards

  • Dr. Chris

    Hi Raghu76

    It is difficult to say how likely it is to recur. It depends on the situation and the patient. If the patient is experiencing chronic rhinitis or sinusitis due to the environment then recurrence may be likely. Chronic steroid use may be recommended to reduce the chances of a polyp developing. Like I said, it just depends on the individual case though.

  • Anil

    I had a surgery on polys done before but strted to loose the sense of smell after a year.I consulted ENT speciealists and was recommended to go for a surgery again.Whe i have corticosteriods it start is disseappear slowly but appears again as soon as its stopped.
    Kindly advice.
    Thanks

  • Dr. Chris

    Hi Anil

    The sense of smell is at times affected by this type of surgery so your complaint is not unusual. It usually is permanent and the loss is not usually complete loss but rather partial. Ask your ENT to follow up and if he believes that further surgical intervention is required then go with it although I would advise that you get a second opinion first. Further surgery is not usually warranted but your ENT knows your case the best.

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  • tushar

    sir,i am 31yr and have observed cartilageous growth in my right sinus cavity,my ENT surgeon recommend surgery,i want to know is there any other solution to treat this? and if surgery, how safe it is for future?

  • Dr. Chris

    Hi Tushar

    It really depends on what you mean by growth – this is a broad term encompassing many conditions. You may be meaning a polyp or a protrusion from the bridge and it also depends which sinus is affected (not just the side but the location). Speak toy our ENT about your concerns. He/she will be better suited to advise you.

  • jakeichan1986

    sir,
    I am 23, suffering with Polyp growth in the nasal cavity. Have lost breathing thru nose almost completely. And so have the Sense of smell.
    It wasnt so severe, but not sure how it got aggrevated..
    Current Course of Treatment was to shrink the polyp. But i believe the treatment wasnt working.. The doc stated something about surgery.. I am a lil worried.

    This is not cancer right? Thats the one question that’s in my mind, and will the polyp return again, after the surgery?

  • Dr. Chris

    Hi Jackiechan1986

    If other therapeutic measures are not working, surgery is necessary. It is a common procedure which is fairly safe. A polyp is not cancerous (if it is a polyp) but it is a type of benign growth. Yes, there is the possibility that a polyp may recur. Ask your doctor to refer you to an ENT specialist (ear-nose-throat / otolaryngologist) if you are not seeing one at the moment.

  • Kooki9@hotmail.com

    Hi,

    Firstly I would like to thank you for the good advice here and a thank you for the advice in advance.

    I too am 31 but have had my polyps for about 6 years. My local GP had told me what they were.

    My symptoms are; loss of smell, congested nose, headaches and blood in my mucus.

    My concern is that I don’t want to have steroids or kortizones in my body. But I’m concerned over the side affects of such medicines.

    Do we know what such side affects are?

    I’m always getting aches and get the pain when I touch my forehead and behind my eye, and it’s time I get rid of this. Why did it take me so long to action on? Fear from the drug? No medical and maybe because I was simply being crap.

    I’d like to smell a woman’s perfume again now too!

    :)

    advice would be great!

    Thanks!

    Kooki

  • Dr. Chris

    Hi Kooki

    Short term use of corticosteroids is not associated with severe or long standing effects on most users. So your concern may be a little unfounded and should be discussed with both your doctor and pharmacist. You can read more about the actions and side effects of these drugs in this article on Corticosteroids. Surgery may also be a consideration at this point given that you have such serious symptoms related to the nasal polyps. Once again, speak to your doctor or consult with an otolaryngologist (ENT specialist) for more advice.