A polyp is a swelling of the lining of the nose and is due to inflammation. The exact reason why some people develop them is uncertain but they are sometimes seen in patients with allergies and sinus infections. Late onset asthma, rather than childhood asthma, is also associated with nasal polyps and the underlying mechanism is very similar. Consultants therefore often explain to patients that having polyps is a little like having asthma in the nose.
Symptoms associated with nasal polyps are a blocked nose, runny nose, sneezing and a poor sense of smell and taste.
There is currently no cure for nasal polyps but most patient’s symptoms can be improved significantly with treatment. Polyps shrink when nasal sprays or drops containing steroids are used. Short courses of stronger tablet steroids can also be used a couple of times a year quite safely. Saline irrigation is also helpful.
Surgery unblocks the nose with immediate effect but more importantly it allows medical treatment to work better. The sinuses are opened and this reduces the surface area from where further polyps can arise and allows the steroid sprays to reach the site of the inflammation more easily