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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, along the nasal lining. Nasal polyps are fairly common, especially as you get older. Polyps can cause symptoms such as: 

  • Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)

  • Long-term (chronic) inflammation of the nose and sinus cavities (called rhinosinusitis)

  • Runny nose

  • Feeling of fullness in your facial sinus, but often no pain

  • Postnasal drip

  • Reduced smell

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

Nasal polyps may be diagnosed by physical exam. Your healthcare provider may check for them by putting a thin tube with a camera (nasal endoscope) into your nose. This gives a detailed view of your nose and sinuses. Or you may have a CT scan.

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 steroid medicine by mouth.

Other treatments for nasal polyps include:

  • Antileukotriene medicine, to help reduce inflammation

  • Antibiotics, to help reduce polyp size

  • Nasal steroid sprays

  • Rinsing the sinuses daily with a saltwater solution

  • Antihistamines, to reduce allergic reactions

  • Allergen immunotherapy and removing allergens, if possible

  • Aspirin desensitization therapy, if needed

You may still have symptoms even with treatment. If this is the case, you may need surgery to remove the polyps. This makes most symptoms go away. But polyps may return in a few months or a few years. It's 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 coming back.

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 cases, 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 your 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

© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.