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What Are Sinus Polyps?

A cross section of the head, including the sinuses.
A doctor may prescribe medication or surgery to treat sinus polyps.
Antihistamines may be used to reduce allergies for those suffering from sinus polyps.
Snoring can be an indication of growing sinus polyps.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2014
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Sinus polyps are growths or swollen tissue in the sinuses that may obstruct breathing or make it hard for sinuses to drain. Causes of these growths are varied, and include usually fairly constant inflammation of the sinus tissue, which might be the result of allergies, frequent viral and bacterial infections or fungal infections. Some conditions, such as cystic fibrosis (CF), tend to have a high incidence of sinus polyps too.

Small polyps in the nasal passages or in other parts of the sinuses may not be noticed and people could have few symptoms to suggest their presence. Other times, it may feel like a cold is constantly present and symptoms might include congested nose and dripping on the back of the throat. Over time if sinus polyps increase in size and number, pain in the head and face may be common, and people might lose sense of taste or smell and have difficulty with snoring, even to the point of developing sleep apnea. A very large polyp may make it difficult to breath through the nose, and in general, polyps that are untreated can lead to frequent sinus infections.

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Diagnosis of sinus polyps is usually achieved through one of two methods. Sometimes those that are close to the nasal opening may be visualized by simply looking up the nose with a lighted scope. Alternately, doctors might use a procedure called endoscopy. A tube that may have a tiny camera on it is inserted in the nose and the sinuses are visualized. This allows doctors to spot presence of numerous polyps if they exist.

Other tests can be performed to diagnose polyps or their potential causes, and these include performing allergy testing, and swabbing the nose for presence of bacteria or fungi. Doctors may also want to do a computerized tomography scan (CT) to locate a high number of sinus polyps and to make certain that there aren’t other problems in the sinuses like cancerous tumors.

There are many potential treatments for sinus polyps. These can include using nasal sprays that contain corticosteroids, like budesonide and fluticasone, to shrink inflamed tissue. If the problem is severe, doctors might consider giving oral corticosteroids also to reduce swelling more quickly. If the polyps are due to allergic inflammation, physicians could prescribe antihistamines to reduce allergic response. Other medications that might be used include those to treat fungal infections or bacterial infections.

Sometimes polyps are very large and require surgical removal. There are several ways to remove polyps, and most methods are outpatient procedures. However, if underlying cause is not addressed, benefits of surgery may be short-lived and new polyps may simply develop. When doctors propose surgery they usually also have a plan in place for attempting to prevent polyps in the future.

Sinus polyps most often occur in adults. There is particular concern when they occur in very young children, as this may indicate cystic fibrosis. Symptoms of sinus polyps in young children shouldn’t be ignored. Should they be detected, doctors can perform a fairly simple test to look for cystic fibrosis. Early diagnosis of CF is of extraordinary benefit, since it gives parents and doctors the opportunity to provide the most beneficial care to children with this challenging disease.

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alex94
Post 4

@dill1971: As the other post stated, the polyps itself is not considered very serious. It can cause a pretty severe amount of pain, though.

Although sinus polyps are not malignant, they are often confused with papillomas, which are known to be precursors of malignant tumors.

You should also be aware that polyps can sometimes appear as a result of the inflammation caused by malignant nasal lesions.

DinoLeash
Post 3

@dill1971:Nasal polyps are non-cancerous tumors that usually appear inside the nose or the sinuses. Whereas they are not considered to be a serious condition, they are often a side effect of some other health condition, usually allergies or infection.

In more serious cases, polyps can grow large enough to cause some destruction of the facial and/or nasal bones.

dill1971
Post 2

Can sinus polyps be serious?

BoatHugger
Post 1

I had sinus polyps in 2001. I was also told that I had a deviated septum (which I believe many people have). After a couple of rounds of antibiotics, my doctor told me that surgery was the next option. I had the surgery done and actually saw results for about a year. The polyps returned and I have had another surgery since then.

If I had it to do over, I would have explored more options.

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