Nasal polyps are non-cancerous growths that form in the sinuses or the nose and are quite common in middle-aged adults. The teardrop-shaped growths typically take place around the nasal and sinus cavities and are associated with asthma or allergies.
Although smaller nasal polyps may not reveal any symptoms, larger nasal polyps may block the sinuses and not allow for normal drainage. When a person’s sinuses accumulate too much mucus, the mucus itself can become infected and become thick or discolored.
It is important to note that nasal polyps are rarely malignant and not associated with cancerous polyps that often form in the bladder or colon. Doctors and scientists agree that they typically take place in people who suffer from chronic inflammation or those who are genetically predisposed to the development of nasal polyps.
According to the UK’s National Health Service, nasal polyps may affect up to 20 out of every 100 people. The public health organization also notes that men are four times as likely to develop nasal polyps than women. Individuals with cystic fibrosis, asthma, allergies, and sinus infections are also more likely to suffer from nasal polyps.
Symptoms of Nasal Polyps
There a variety of symptoms associated with nasal polyps, including:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
- Nasal obstruction
- Loss of smell
- Loss of taste
- Facial pain
- Itchy eyes
While someone may develop any of these symptoms, the majority of people afflicted with nasal polyps experience sneezing, runny noses, and postnasal drip. A further 75 percent of people experience a decreased ability to smell as well.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a majority of people also experience sinus infections, bouts of wheezing, and sensitivity to chemicals, dust, and other fumes. Although less common, some people with nasal polyps may also experience severe allergic reactions to aspirin and yellow dyes, which can potentially be life threatening. Therefore, if you have such a reaction, you should immediately consult with your physician for an evaluation.
Risk Factors for Nasal Polyps
People of all ages can be affected by nasal polyps. However, they are most common in male adults over 40 years of age. Although rare, nasal polyps in children may be a sign of cystic fibrosis. While nasal polyps are commonly associated with asthma, sinus infections, allergic rhinitis, chronic infections, and aspirin allergies, the actual cause is often unknown.
Many researchers have theorized that runny noses, itchy eyes, sneezing, and other allergic symptoms lead to the development of nasal polyps. However, this is a controversial viewpoint, because research suggests that nearly one-third of asthma patients suffer from nasal polyps, but they only develop in two percent of people with seasonal allergies alone. Meanwhile, other researchers believe that the formation of nasal polyps is caused by sinus infections, which block drainage and cause tissue to swell.
Regardless of their cause of origin, nasal polyps are typically not harmful. However, in severe cases, double vision and obstructive sleep apnea can occur, both of which can be harmful and even life threatening. Therefore, you should consult with your physician if you experience these or any other symptoms for longer than 14 days.