By some estimates, nasal polyps affect nearly 4% of people living in the United States. That might sound small–but it’s close to 14 million people.
For many, nasal polyps are easy to ignore. They stay small, out of the way, and don’t cause many symptoms. For others, nasal polyps can cause a myriad of issues–ranging from a mundane runny nose to serious and long-term sleeping problems.
So when do nasal polyps become a problem? And what should you do about them when that happens?
What Are Nasal Polyps?
Tiny growths on the inside of your nose, nasal polyps are noncancerous, soft bumps that form along the lining of your sinuses and nasal passages. Sometimes these growths are a result of inflammation, usually caused by something like a sinus infection. But often enough, they can grow on their own and become semi-permanent fixtures in your nose.
When they’re small in size and number, nasal polyps can be easy enough to ignore–a nuisance at the most. But when polyps grow in mass and quantity, they can cause a variety of issues to develop. Some of the most common symptoms of nasal polyps include:
- Postnasal drip
- Runny nose or persistent (and constant) stuffiness
- More frequent than usual nose bleeds
- The diminishment of your sense of smell and taste
- A feeling of pressure in your nose, forehead, or face
- Snoring, sometimes leading to sleep apnea
- A sense of pain in the upper teeth
Over time, these symptoms can create a significant disruption to your quality of life, so many people with nasal polyps will seek out treatment.
How Nasal Polyps Are Treated
When people think of treatment for nasal polyps, they usually first imagine surgery. And while surgery is an effective way to treat polyps, it’s not usually the first step. Those with nasal polyps will most often try one of these options first:
Corticosteroids: Whether they are injected, inhaled through the nose, or taken in pill form, corticosteroids are among the most common treatments to try to diminish the size of nasal polyps. The idea behind these treatments is to try to diminish any swelling that may be making the polyps larger than they ought to be.
Other medications: If your doctor thinks that your nasal polyps might be caused by an underlying condition, such as a sinus infection, you may be given other medications. The most common treatment for sinus infections is prescription antibiotics. If your sinus infection fades, but your polyps do not, further treatments may be necessary.
Surgery for Nasal Polyps
Over the years, surgery for nasal polyps has developed something of a distressing reputation. Years ago, patients were required to endure a painful procedure called “nasal packing,” during which gauze was applied to those areas where surgery occurred.
These days, however, minimally invasive surgical techniques coupled with novel bandaging materials and devices mean that painful nasal packing is a thing of the past. In general, nasal polyp surgery is performed on an outpatient basis, so most patients return home shortly after the procedure is completed.
You’ll want to plan on resting for a couple of weeks after your procedure. The exact duration of your recovery period will vary depending on the precise nature of your procedure.
You Don’t Have to Live With Nasal Polyps That Become a Problem
Nasal polyps aren’t always a problem. Sometimes they start out small and only flare up when you have a sinus infection or cold. But when nasal polyps do become a problem, they can cause quite a bit of discomfort. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to just live with that discomfort.
Treatment options are available for those who want to eliminate or diminish their nasal polyps. Once treatment is complete, you’ll breathe easier, sleep better, and may even find yourself experiencing fewer headaches or nosebleeds.
In other words, you’ll be able to focus on enjoying life again–without sniffling your way through it.