Treatment for Nasal Polyps

Front view of face showing sinuses with polyps.Nasal polyps are abnormal, soft growths in the nose or sinuses. They are swollen bulbs of inflamed tissue, attached to the nasal lining by thin stalks. Nasal polyps are fairly common, especially as you get older. Polyps can cause symptoms such as: 

  • Nasal congestion

  • Runny nose

  • Feeling of fullness in  your facial sinus, but usually not pain

  • Postnasal drip

  • Reduced smell

  • Feeling blocked in your nose and having to breathe through your mouth

Types of treatment

Treatment is done to reduce inflammation and the size of your polyps. Treatment often starts with steroid medicine inhaled through the nose. This can lessen the inflammation in your nose. If this doesn’t work, you may need to take oral steroid medicine.

Other treatments for nasal polyps include:

  • Antileukotriene medicine, to help lessen inflammation

  • Antibiotics, to help reduce polyp size

  • Daily rinsing of the sinuses with a salt water solution

  • Antihistamines, to reduce allergic reactions

  • Allergen immunotherapy and removal of allergens, if possible

  • Aspirin desensitization therapy, if needed

You may still have symptoms despite treatment. If this is the case, you may need surgery to remove the polyps. This makes most symptoms go away. But polyps may come back in a few months to a few years. It is important to treat the cause of your polyps to help prevent them from growing back. After surgery, you may need to take inhaled nasal steroids to help keep the polyps from returning.

Possible complications of nasal polyps

Sinus infection is a common complication of nasal polyps. These infections may come back often and become chronic. If you get a bacterial infection, you may need treatment with antibiotics.

In rare cases, nasal polyps can lead to serious infections such as:

  • Infection of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)

  • Infection around the tissue around the eye (orbital cellulitis)

  • Infection of the sinus bones (osteitis)

Your healthcare provider will watch your symptoms carefully to make sure you don’t have these infections. If you do, you might need antibiotics. In very rare instances, you may need surgery.

Very large nasal polyps may block your nasal airways during sleep. This leads to obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where lack of oxygen wakes you up many times a night without you knowing it. This can make you very tired during the day. Let your healthcare provider know if you often feel tired.   

When to call the healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Symptoms that don’t get better after several days of treatment

  • Abnormal vision

  • Swelling around your eyes

  • Confusion or loss of alertness