Nasal congestion and a runny nose are two common symptoms of a cold. They are also symptoms of allergies. But what if you seem to constantly have a stuffed up or runny nose, but allergy tests come back negative and you know your symptoms aren’t due to the common cold?
It could be that you have sinus polyps, also called nasal polyps. Sinus polyps are growths that develop in the nasal passages and sinuses. They are typically pear or teardrop-shaped and can resemble grapes. The polyps have a wet, moist appearance and are usually soft to the touch. In some cases they are asymptomatic, so it’s possible for people to have polyps in the nasal passage or sinuses without knowing it. Some people are more likely to develop the growths than others.
Who Gets Sinus Polyps?
Generally speaking, adults are more likely than children to develop sinus polyps. The growths are more common in men than in women, but it’s important to understand that they can develop in people of either sex and of any age.
Even though they can develop in anyone, nasal polyps are relatively rare. They occur in about 2 percent of the adult population and much less frequently in children.
Some conditions can increase a person’s risk for developing the polyps. For example, cystic fibrosis, a condition that causes the body to produce thick, sticky mucous, usually increases a person’s risk for nasal polyps. People with asthma, allergies or chronic sinus infections are also more likely to develop polyps.
Although there are risk factors for the condition, in many cases, the exact cause of the polyps isn’t known.
How Do You Know If You Have Polyps?
It can be tricky to know for sure if you have polyps without getting the help of a doctor. Polyps tend not to have any symptoms when they are small and just beginning to form.
When they are large enough to cause symptoms, it’s often the case that the signs of the polyps are very similar to conditions from allergies and a cold. For example, sinus polyps can cause a persistent runny nose, feelings of stuffiness or congestion, feelings of pressure in the face and sneezing. About three quarters of people also notice a reduced sense of smell thanks to the enlarged polyps.
Occasionally, people with polyps in the sinuses and nasal passages also have a sensitivity to aspirin. In fact, in some cases, an allergy to aspirin can be what triggers the growth of the polyps.
Since sinus polyps are benign growths, they shouldn’t cause problems such as bleeding or extreme pain. If you suspect that you have a growth or polyp and it is very painful or causing you to bleed, or if the polyp seems to be on just one side of the nose, it could be a sign of a tumor in the sinuses, and not a polyp.
Seeing a doctor is often your best course of action if you have prolonged symptoms that don’t seem to clear up or if you have more severe symptoms like bleeding. A doctor can look into your nasal passages and sinuses and verify whether or not polyps are there.
What Are Your Treatment Options?
If sinus polyps are interfering with your quality of life and are causing symptoms, treatment can help reduce their size or eliminate them completely. A variety of treatment options are available, and your doctor will most likely recommend the least invasive options first.
For example, some patients see a considerable improvement in the size of their nasal polyps after using nasal corticosteroids or after taking an oral form of the medication. In cases where the polyps are a results of allergies, treating the allergies, either with prescription or over-the-counter medicines or with immunotherapy, can help the polyps improve.
Polyps that don’t respond to other treatment options or that have become incredibly large on their own can be surgically removed. Surgery to remove the polyps is usually performed endoscopically, meaning that the surgeon doesn’t make an incision on the face or in the nose.
ABOUT DR. RUBINSTEIN
Dr. Rubinstein has nearly sixteen years of experience in helping patients with sinus problems, including sinus polyps, in the Hudson Valley. A board certified facial plastic surgeon and board certified otolaryngologist, he has extensive knowledge of laser procedures, facial plastic surgery, and nasal and sinus treatments, which allows him to improve aesthetics as well as functionality of the nose and facial features. Dr. Rubinstein received his board certifications through the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. To learn more about treatment for sinus polyps and other sinus problems, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center by calling 845-562-6673.