Coping With Nasal Polyps
WOMAN'S WEEKLY|October 26, 2021
Polyps are swellings of the nasal lining, usually due to allergy or inflammation
Dr Gill

Nasal polyps affect the lining of the nose, often originating from the ethmoid sinuses, which drain into the side wall of the nasal cavity. These painless soft growths aren’t usually serious, but they can keep growing and block your nose if not treated. They contain inflammatory fluid and, while often associated with allergy and infection, the exact cause is not known.

They commonly occur with more general diseases such as late-onset asthma in an adult (rather than childhood asthma), aspirin intolerance or cystic fibrosis. Nasal polyps are up to four times more common in men, affecting between one and 20 in every 1,000 people, though after the age of 60, the risk declines. Nasal polyps are rare in children between the ages of two and 10 and, if found, require testing for cystic fibrosis.

More than 30% of polyps are in patients with coexisting asthma. Two-thirds have no known systemic allergic disease, but 90% of nasal polyps show eosinophilia – inflammatory cells associated with allergy. Aspirin hypersensitivity is also associated with polyps. They look like small grapes, singly or in clusters, in the nasal cavity.

Symptoms

These include blocked or runny nose and sneezing, snoring, post-nasal drip, and poor sense of smell and taste, which don’t always return after treatment. If your polyps block your sinuses (the air pockets around your nose), you may also have symptoms of sinusitis. A GP can usually diagnose nasal polyps by looking inside your nose, then offer steroid nose drops or a spray to shrink them, which is effective in up to 80% of patients.

You may be given steroid tablets, usually for up to two weeks, if your polyps are large or nose drops and sprays haven’t worked. If there’s no sign of improvement after about 10 weeks, the GP may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for treatment.

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