How do I deal witih nasal polyps?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 30, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

How do I deal with nasal polyps? Is surgery necessary?

Expert Answers

Steven Y. Park, M.D., is a board-certified otolaryngologist specializing in diagnosing and treating sleep-breathing problems such as obstructive sleep apnea, snoring, and upper airway resistance syndrome. Park is a blogger ( and author of the book Sleep, Interrupted: A Physician Reveals the #1 Reason Why So Many of Us Are Sick and Tired.

A nasal polyp is a generic term used to describe any kind of abnormal swelling or growth inside the nose or sinuses. Swelling of the mucous membranes by itself doesn't mean polyps"”growth or extension of the soft tissues beyond the normal boundaries is more typical of polyps. In most cases, polyps are the result of chronic inflammation, allergies, or infection. The vast majority are benign, but there is a small chance of malignancy, especially if it's one-sided.

The first step in managing nasal polyps if to find out where it is in your nose and how extensive it is. Small, early polyps can usually be managed conservatively, but more extensive polyps will usually require a CAT scan. MRIs are not recommended as the initial test, since bony anatomy doesn't show up on these tests.

Most nasal polyps are treated with various allergy medications, including topical nasal steroid sprays, oral steroids. Many people also benefit from frequent nasal saline irrigation. Surgery is only necessary if the polyps cause chronic symptoms, or if there is a suspicion of malignancy. Many people have benign polyps either in the nose or sinuses without any symptoms.

One of the most common areas of confusion is when you're told you have polyps in your nose, when in fact the "polyp" that's seen are enlarged and swollen nasal turbinates, which are wing-like structures along the side walls of your nose that normally smooth, warm, filter and humidifies the air.

If you have known allergies, allergy shots may be an options as well. An alternative explanation for nasal polyps is that your body is reacting abnormally to normal molds and fungus particles that land on the mucous membranes. Antifungal nose sprays or pills can sometimes be used for this purpose.

The best way of managing nasal polyps is to work closely with your otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) to find your best plan of action.