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How to recognize polyps in the nose
Seasonal allergies or colds are often to blame behind a stuffy nose. If the nasal congestion doesn't go away after a few days or weeks, nasal polyps can be behind it. Polyps are non-malignant tumors that can cause permanent nasal congestion.
Dr. Jean Kim is an ear, nose and throat doctor at the renowned Johns Hopkins University. The specialist explains what nasal polyps are, how to recognize them and how to get rid of them.
How do nasal polyps develop?
As the nose expert reports, the exact causes of the development of nasal polyps are not yet fully known. Persistent inflammation of the nasal mucosa and sinuses (chronic rhinosinusitis) are considered a risk factor for polyp formation.
How chronic inflammation turns into polyps
According to Kim, chronic inflammation often arises from allergies, upper respiratory tract infections or tobacco smoke, as well as secondhand smoke. These events trigger an abnormal immune response in some people, leading to excessive swelling of the nasal mucosa. These swellings form the actual nasal polyps.
How dangerous are polyps?
According to John Hopkins University, there is no evidence that nasal polyps are life-threatening. However, they can cause great discomfort and severely affect normal nasal breathing. If nasal polyps get too large, they can block the normal flow of mucus and cause the nasal mucus to accumulate in the nose and provide a focus for further infections.
What are symptoms of nasal polyps?
In the initial phase, nasal polyps may have no symptoms at all. With increasing size, the polyps can cause a stuffy nose, cough, headache, reduced sense of smell and taste, and a feeling of pressure in the head. Since the symptoms resemble those of flu infections, there is a great risk of confusion. If the cold symptoms do not go away for a long time, the ENT doctor should check the nose for polyps.
Do polyps cause pain?
"If they are real benign nasal polyps, you shouldn't have any pain or bleeding," explains Dr. Kim. However, there are other benign or cancerous ulcers in the sinuses that are often mistaken for polyps. This includes, for example, an inverted papilloma or sinus cancer. Such diseases are often accompanied by pain and bleeding in the nose.
Can you see nasal polyps?
In a self-examination, the polyps are usually not visible. ENT practices use special endoscopes with cameras that can detect polyps.
What are the treatment options for nasal polyps?
Depending on the number and size of the polyps, medication, surgery or both can be used. Typically nasal or oral corticosteroids are used as medication to shrink the polyps. Failure to do so may require surgery to remove the nasal polyps. The operation can usually be done as part of an endoscopy.
Risk of return
If the cause of the inflammation remains untreated, sooner or later the nasal polyps will likely return, the specialist warns. It is therefore essential to speak to a specialist about a prevention plan. This can include, for example, an increase in indoor air humidity or better management of underlying diseases such as asthma or allergies. (vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Could nasal polyps be the cause of your stuffy nose? (Accessed: November 12, 2019), hopkinsmedicine.org