What are Nasal Polyps?

Michael Pollick

Nasal polyps are noncancerous growths that spontaneously form in nasal passages for largely unknown reasons. There may be a connection between the formation of polyps and allergic rhinitis, but a runny nose alone does not always trigger them. Some medical experts suggest a link between sinus infections and the increased likelihood of polyp formation, but others suggest that the majority form idiopathically, meaning there is no definitive cause.

Nasal sprays with steroids can help to shrink nasal polyps.
Nasal sprays with steroids can help to shrink nasal polyps.

Symptoms of nasal polyps include blocked nasal airways, the sudden onset of snoring, a reduction in senses of smell or taste, and discolored nasal mucus. The polyps themselves may appear as enlarged sacs of mucus with a jelly-like consistency. Unlike benign or malignant polyps that may form in other areas of the body, nasal polyps are not usually attached to the skin and are not typically viewed as evidence of a more serious medical condition.

Blocked nasal airways is a sign of nasal polyps.
Blocked nasal airways is a sign of nasal polyps.

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There are several different courses of treatment for nasal polyps, most of which involve the application of anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids. Nasal sprays containing steroids generally shrink the polyps themselves while antibiotics may address any secondary infections. Significant amounts of discolored nasal mucus is often a sign of an infection residing out of sight in the upper nasal passages. A medical professional can use a special instrument to examine nasal passages for the development of polyps.

The presence of nasal polyps may result in discolored nasal mucus.
The presence of nasal polyps may result in discolored nasal mucus.

On rare occasions, nasal polyps may become problematic enough to require surgical intervention. Complete blockage of nasal airways by enlarged ones, for example, could require an aspiration procedure, meaning the polyps would be carefully drained by a surgeon and the patient would be given antibiotics to counteract post-procedural infection. Self-treatment is strongly discouraged, since the punctured sacs of infected mucus may not heal properly or could possibly cause scar tissue to form in the nasal passages.

Headache and a runny nose may be symptoms of a nose polyp.
Headache and a runny nose may be symptoms of a nose polyp.
The sudden onset of snoring can indicate nasal polyps.
The sudden onset of snoring can indicate nasal polyps.

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Discussion Comments


I had severe polyps with no smell or taste and not being able to breathe through my nose. I tried the steroid spray, which gave me severe attacks which made it hard to breathe, so I gave that up and about two years later, just by chance, started taking a daily mini aspirin – 100mg – which brought my smell and taste back to about 60-80 percent levels and cleared my nose for good breathing again.

I would recommend others try it, as it is a cheaper, better way to get some decent control on this horrible condition.

I also take four fish oil capsules and a zinc tablet daily, but it's the aspirin that does the work. I know because I have stopped taking it occasionally to see what happens and I always lose my smell and taste in four days and my nose starts clogging up and I cannot breathe through it again.


@littleman -- The common nasal polyps symptoms apply to both adults and children -- that is, runny/stuffy nose, headaches and sinus pressure, and a decreased sense of taste and smell. As for the snoring, that could be caused by swollen nasal polyps, but it's more likely it your daughter's snoring pattern has just begun, or changed recently.

I wouldn't advocate going to surgery as your first option; especially since your daughter is so young. It's much more likely that your physician or pediatrician will put her on drops instead, and only start considering surgery if there are no signs of improvement.

I know kids hate this, but allergy shots can help too.

Best of luck.


I have two questions about nasal polyps -- first, what are the signs of nasal polyps in children? Also, do nasal polyps cause snoring? My daughter is only about eight, but she seems to always have a stuffy nose and snores like a freight train -- could this be due to nasal polyps?

And if so, should she have nasal polyps surgery if she's so young?

Any information would be appreciated...


My dad had chronic sinusitis due to nasal polyps, and he eventually had to have them surgically removed! They would keep filling over and over again, so they ended up performing laser nasal polyp surgery on him to cauterize the tissue and prevent them from growing back.

And now I've inherited his tendency to sinusitis, so I'm pretty sure it's only a matter of time before I get my own nasal sinus polyps, but I'm trying to hold off as long as I can -- I really don't want to go through the whole nasal polyps treatment course!

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