Sinus polyps are among the most common problems that lead patients to consult a sinus specialist. While they can’t be seen from the outside, polyps can make themselves known through a host of side effects that range from mild congestion to serious difficulty in breathing. Fortunately, there is a range of treatment options that can make dealing with polyps much more manageable.
What Are Sinus Polyps?
Polyps are non-cancerous fleshy growths that occur along the nasal passages and sinuses. Normally gray in color and moist in texture, they most resemble small grapes lining the interior of the sinuses. Normally they develop when the linings of the nose and sinuses becomes habitually inflamed and swollen, which causes the mucus membranes to distend. This can eventually lead to the formation of sac-like polyps which grow as the stretched mucus membrane becomes more permeable and allows moisture to seep in.
While rare in children, sinus polyps begin to develop in as many as 2 in 100 adults, with people between the ages of 40 and 60 at the highest susceptibility. It is unknown why many people with inflamed or infected sinuses never develop polyps while others develop them quickly, but a susceptibility to polyp development is heavily correlated with a variety of conditions like late-onset asthma, aspirin hypersensitivity, and cystic fibrosis. In a few people, the polyps only develop on one side, but this is considered abnormal and is associated with a range of more serious conditions.
What Problems Do Sinus Polyps Cause?
While polyps can be harmless, in most people they lead to a variety of symptoms ranging from mildly irritating to severe enough to require surgery. The most common symptoms are similar to the symptoms of a cold and include a perpetually runny or stuffy nose, nasal congestion, snoring, and occasional nosebleeds. Larger polyps can lead to more serious complications like extreme congestion, pain or itching around the eyes or upper teeth, and decreased senses of taste and smell. They can also increase chances of future infections and lead to increased pain during sinus headaches. In some cases they can even interfere with breathing and clear speech, which can have far-reaching effects on your social and professional life.
Diagnosing Sinus Polyps
Diagnosing sinus polyps normally begins with taking a thorough medical history. Once a description of the symptoms indicates that polyps are likely, an examination will be conducted to pinpoint the exact location and extent of the problem. In some cases, a simple look in the nose is enough to diagnose nasal polyps, but polyps in the sinuses generally require the use of a fiber-optic tool called an endoscope. In some cases, imaging tools like a CT scan may also be necessary to locate the polyps. Once a diagnosis is made, Dr. Rubinstein will be able to suggest appropriate treatments to control current symptoms or even eliminate the problem entirely.
Treating Sinus Polyps
Small polyps that are not causing symptoms will generally be simply observed in case they become larger and more problematic. In most other situations, the symptoms of sinus polyps can be easily controlled with medication. Nasal steroid sprays are particularly effective since they can often shrink the polyps themselves, but decongestants and antihistamines are also useful for keeping the patient comfortable. In over 50%, allergies are the main cause. Dr. Rubinstein offers his polyp patients allergy shots as they can help shrink the polyps and can prevent or delay the need for surgery as well as slow down the return of polyps after surgery.
Surgical Options for Removing Sinus Polyps
In situations where the polyps have grown quite large and are causing severe problems like pain or difficulty breathing, surgical removal might be recommended. The procedure is done under anesthesia endoscopically without any incisions. The polyps are gently shaved out. Dr. Rubinstein frequently will use stereotactic navigation to help localize the polyps for a more effective and safer treatment. There is no bruising or packing. Smaller polyps can be removed under local anesthesia with oral sedatives.
Recovery from Surgery
Endoscopic sinus surgery does not typically cause great discomfort, but you may experience nosebleeds or crusting inside the nose for several weeks. In addition to pain medication, antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent infections. In most cases, your symptoms will be noticeably improved within just a few days and most return back to work within a few days, up to one week. The surgery may need to be repeated in a few years if the polyps grow back. Dr. Rubinstein will slow down re growth by treating those will allergies with medications and or allergy injections. Check-ups twice a year can help detect early re growth of the polyps which can be managed medically with a short course of oral steroids avoiding surgery.