Nasal polyps are really markers of inflammation in the nose. There can be one large polyp or you can have many different sites where polyps form. Occasionally we will see people with polyps coming from the tissue in the nose, but most commonly polyps come from the tissue in the sinuses. Polyps end up being in about 30 percent of folks with chronic sinus disease. That ends up being a pretty large number.
What causes nasal polyps?
There are lots of different reasons why people have nasal polyps. We only know a very small number of them. A lot of people think allergy might be the main factor in developing polyps, but the studies that have been done don’t bare that out. Only around half of them have allergies. Some other very specific causes are there are some defects in metabolic pathways that can cause polyp formation. There is certainly genetic disposition to polyp formation as well.
What are the symptoms of nasal polyps?
Generally the things that people notice most with nasal polyps are inability to breathe through the nose, poor nasal airflow, and decreased smell. The smell seems to be a pretty sensitive indicator of the amount of inflammation in someone’s nose. It’s a good way to follow polyp patients. If one of my polyp patients comes in and there smell is decreased, there is a good chance that there are some polyps that have grown back.
What are the treatment options for nasal polyps?
Lots of times people get good benefit from steroids and we can get them feeling pretty well for a while. Unfortunately, a lot of the times those polyps come back and once you come off the steroids the polyps seem to regrow. Most of the time what I try to do is try to figure out if we can find out why they do have the polyps and then if we can remove that causative factor. If we can’t find a cause then most of the time we try to see what they respond to. If we do all those things and the problems are still there and the people are still systematic then we frequently will consider surgery.