Nasal polyps are inflammatory masses that arise from an individual’s natural sinus lining due to severe inflammation. They tend to grow quickly and eventually cause nasal congestion and sinusitis by blocking the nasal passage and sinus openings. Unlike polyps in the uterus or colon, nasal polyps are not precancerous. Nasal polyps are one of the most severe forms of nasal inflammatory conditions. Most patients that suffer from nasal polyps usually have moderate to severe forms of environmental (dust, ragweed, trees, grass, weed, pollen) or animal allergies.
Common symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion
- Frequent sinus infections
- Loss/change in smell
- Facial pressure / pain
There are several causes of nasal polyps, and each person may have a unique combination of causes.
- Asthma & Allergies: environmental allergens cause chronic inflammation that lead to polyp formation
- Hereditary: a family history may predispose you to having a similar condition
- Sinusitis: irritation of the sinus linings due to recurrent or chronic infection
- Nasal examination
Examination of the patient’s nasal anatomy in the office is typically performed during routine examination. Many times, polyps are so large that they are completely blocking the entire nasal passage or extending out of the nose.
- Nasal endoscopy
A tiny camera is used to view the nasal passages and openings of the sinus cavities. This is painless, takes just a few minutes, and is very easily tolerated in the office. Nasal polyps, inflammatory processes, nasal/sinus anatomy, and allergy related changes of the nasal linings can be seen during this examination.
- CT (CAT) scan
This is the “gold standard” for imaging the sinus cavities. CT scans are quick, painless, and are routinely acquired for nearly all of our sinus and allergy patients. No intravenous (IV) contrast is needed, and the images are taken in digital format to review in the office.
Since polyps are the result of severe inflammation, the first line of treatment includes nasal steroid sprays and oral antihistamines to help shrink polyps. These are only effective in cases of very small polyps. These medications are also very important in controlling polyp regrowth after surgical removal.
- Minimally Invasive Surgery
Endoscopic removal combined with Balloon Sinuplasty is the most effect form of treatment. Using a small endoscope, or camera, the nasal polyps are identified and gently removed. Sinus openings that have become blocked due to the presence of polyps can be easily opened using the Balloon Sinuplasty system at the same time. The procedure can be done in the office in many cases, but general anesthesia may be needed in severe cases of nasal polyps and sinusitis. No packing material is needed in the nose.
- Allergy Testing & Treatment
Because allergic rhinitis and sinusitis are caused by hypersensitivity our immune system to specific allergens, one method of treatment involves introducing the specific allergen to the body in stepwise dosages until the body can tolerate the allergen without creating an allergic response. This is provided in traditional allergy shots, or using allergy drops (sublingual).
- Nasal/Sinus Irrigations
Nasal irrigations can help to wash the sinus cavities and remove potential allergens, such as tree, grass, and weed pollen, but this is usually ineffective for most patients with active polyp formation.