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Friday, April 10, 2009

What are Nasal Polyps ?



[Extracted from Wisegeek.com & patient.co.uk]

Nasal polyps are noncancerous growths which spontaneously form in nasal passages for largely unknown reasons. There may be a connection between the formation of nasal polyps and allergic rhinitis, but a runny nose alone does not always trigger nasal polyps. Some medical experts suggest a link between sinus infections and the increased likelihood of polyp formation, but others suggest that the majority of nasal polyps form idiopathically, meaning there is no definitive cause.

Symptoms of nasal polyps include blocked nasal airways, sudden onset of snoring, reduction in senses of smell or taste, and discolored nasal mucus. The polyps themselves may appear as enlarged sacs of mucus with a jelly-like consistency. Unlike benign or malignant polyps which may form in other areas of the body, nasal polyps are not usually attached to the skin and are not usually viewed as evidence of a more serious medical condition.

There are several different courses of treatment for nasal polyps, most of which involve the application of anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids. Nasal sprays containing steroids generally shrink the nasal polyps themselves while antibiotics may address any secondary infections. Significant amounts of discolored nasal mucus is often a sign of infected nasal polyps residing out of sight in the upper nasal passages. A medical professional can use a special instrument to examine nasal passages for the development of nasal polyps.

On rare occasions, nasal polyps may become problematic enough to require surgical intervention. Complete blockage of nasal airways by enlarged nasal polyps, for example, could require an aspiration procedure, meaning the polyps would be carefully drained by a surgeon and the patient would be given antibiotics to counteract post-procedural infection. Self-treatment of nasal polyps is strongly discouraged, since the punctured sacs of infected mucus may not heal properly, or possibly cause scar tissue to form in the nasal passages.

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What are nasal polyps ?

Nasal polyps are soft fleshy swellings that grow inside the nose. They may be yellowish, grey or pink in colour. They are common and are not cancerous (that is, they are benign). Nasal polyps can vary greatly in size. There may be only one but sometimes several grow like a 'small bunch of grapes' on a stem.

What causes nasal polyps ?

In most cases the cause is not known. It is thought that ongoing (chronic) inflammation in the nose causes overgrowth of the lining of the nostril. This can sometimes lead to small polyps forming. These may then gradually grow larger. Polyps usually affect both nostrils. The cause of the inflammation is unclear in most cases. However, certain conditions make nose inflammation and polyps more likely. These include: asthma, allergy to aspirin, cystic fibrosis, and some rare conditions of the nose.

Who gets nasal polyps ?

About 1 in 100 people will develop nasal polyps at some stage in their life. Nasal polyps can affect anyone. However, most cases occur in people over the age of 40 years. They are four times more common in men than in women. Nasal polyps are uncommon in children. A child with nasal polyps should also be checked for cystic fibrosis as cystic fibrosis is a 'risk factor' for developing nasal polyps.



What are the symptoms of nasal polyps ?

* The main symptom is a blocked feeling in the nose. You may find it difficult to breathe through your nose. You may then have to breathe through your mouth for much of the time. This is especially troublesome at night and your sleep may be affected.

* Watering from the nose (rhinorrhoea) is common.

* A 'post nasal drip' may occur. This is the sensation of something continually running down the back of your throat due to mucus coming from the back of large polyps.

* Your sense of smell and taste may be dulled or lost.

* A blocked nose may make your voice sound different.

* Larger polyps may cause headaches and snoring.

* Very large untreated polyps can make your nose and front of your face enlarge.

* Sometimes polyps block the drainage channel of the sinuses. This can make you more prone to sinusitis (infection of the sinuses).

* Large polyps sometimes interfere with breathing at night and cause obstructive sleep apnoea. (See separate leaflet called 'Sleep Apnoea'.)

Do I need any tests ?

An ear nose and throat specialist can usually diagnose nasal polyps from their appearance. Sometimes a CT scan of the front of your face is ordered. This may be done to find out how large the polyps are, or if they are also in your sinuses. A small flexible telescope may also be used to look inside your nose and assess the extent of the polyps.

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