Polyps are swellings of the nasal and sinus mucous membrane that occur in response to longstanding inflammation and can be responsible for many symptoms of sinusitis. Polyp formation is sometimes related to allergies, but certainly may occur otherwise.
Common symptoms in patients with nasal and sinus polyps include nasal obstruction, decreased sense of smell, repeated sinus infections, facial pressure, and a lot of drainage from the nose. It is common, as in sinusitis, to feel as if you have a constant cold or sinus infection. Voice quality is also often affected due to blockage of the nose and sinuses. Occasionally, patients have polyps, asthma, and aspirin sensitivity together, a situation known as Samter’s triad or aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD).
The presence of polyps can be easily confirmed by an endoscopic examination, which utilizes a small telescope that is placed inside of the nostril to examine the nose and sinuses. Computed tomography (CT, CAT) scan of the sinuses may help to show the exact location of polyps within these cavities and the extent of involvement.
Initial treatment of polyps typically includes anti-inflammatory medical treatments to shrink the polyps. In many cases, this treatment alone can be quite effective with improvement in symptoms. In severe cases, sinus surgery may be necessary to remove the polyps. One benefit of surgery in this regard is removing irreversibly diseased tissue and creating space for delivery of medications. Following surgery, it is therefore very important to continue the medication regimen, in some cases on a long-term basis, in order to prevent polyps from re-growing. The nose and sinus cavities should be watched closely on a regular basis. If early swellings in the mucous membrane are found, they may be treated medically before causing symptoms or requiring another surgery.