Nasal polyps look like small grapes and can appear singly or in clusters in the nostrils. They are non cancerous.
Nasal polyps can be associated with allergies and infection but the exact reason why some people get them and not others, is unknown. However they commonly occur alongside asthma in adults. Between 20% and 40% of patients with nasal polyps also have asthma and 90% of sufferers have inflammatory cells present which are associated with allergy (eosinophilia).
Sensitivity to aspirin is not an allergic reaction but aspirin sensitivity and nasal polyps together are a well-recognized association in 8% of polyp patients.
There also appears to be an affinity between nasal polyps and cystic fibrosis especially amongst children up to the age of 10.
Polyps usually occur in both nostrils and one-sided polyps are rare and need further investigation in both adults and children.
Around 40% of people develop polyps at some point in their lives. They mainly affect adults over 20 but the chances of developing polyps declines after the age of 60. Ladies, you will be delighted to learn that they are more common in men (up to 4:1).
For up to 80% of people, polyps respond and shrink using steroid drops or sprays. Nasal steroid sprays can be taken for many years to control symptoms as very little is absorbed into the body and they can work well. But many take up to six weeks before their full effect of the treatment can be felt. Stronger steroids in drop form can be used but can absorb into the body and therefore, must be used with care and limited to short courses.
Steroids in tablet form can provide good relief but the effects are short-lived and they are used sparingly because of concerns about side effects. If medicines are ineffective then surgery is required.
Nasal polyps can be removed surgically and this usually helps the patient to breathe better. Surgery using an endoscope usually lasts around 45 minutes to an hour and can be carried out under a general or local anesthetic. Recovery takes anywhere from one to three weeks.
Before and after surgery, sinus rinses can be helpful to clear the sinuses. Use sterile warm water mixed with a small amount of common salt (sodium chloride) and bicarbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate).
In 75% of cases the polyps return after an average of four years. If they return repeatedly the sinuses can be opened up and cleaned and this usually gives a longer period before they return. Localized medical treatment is often still required using anti-inflammatory sprays or drops.