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Benign Growths in the Nose: Nasal Polyps Explained

Medically reviewed by Diana Rose G. Tolentino, MD, MBA · Ear Nose and Throat · HMICare Clinic & Diagnostic Center

Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Jun 21, 2021

Benign Growths in the Nose: Nasal Polyps Explained

Know the Basics

Nothing can ruin a day like a congested nose. But if you find that your nose is stuffy even when you’re not suffering from a cold or allergies, then there might be another reason. Nasal congestion is just one of the symptoms of nasal polyps.

You might be wondering, what exactly is a polyp? A polyp is an abnormal growth of cells that forms a projecting tissue that can be found in any part of the body, usually on a mucous membrane. Most polyps are usually benign (non-cancerous) and grow on various parts of the body, including the:

  • Bladder
  • Cervix
  • Colon and rectum
  • Ear canal
  • Nose
  • Stomach
  • Throat
  • Uterus

Learn more about nasal polyps treatment, why they happen, their symptoms, and their impact on your health.

What Are Nasal Polyps?

Nasal polyps are soft, painless, and usually benign (non-cancerous) growths that form on the nasal passages, or the lining of the nose. They usually hang down from the lining of the nose shaped like teardrops or grapes. 

They can occur in both the left and right nasal passages. If a nasal polyp or growth occurs on only one side of the nasal passages, then you should have a doctor check it right away as this can be a malignant tumor.


What Are the Causes?

Doctors are still not sure about the exact cause of nasal polyps. However, some say that nasal polyps can result from chronic inflammation of the nose and nasal cavity due to sinus infections or allergies. 

In fact, data shows that 20% of people with chronic rhinosinusitis develop nasal polyps. Chronic rhinosinusitis or sinusitis is characterized by the swelling of the sinuses that usually last for three weeks or even longer despite treatment. 

Allergic Rhinitis: All You Need to Know

Nasal polyps are usually formed by the ethmoid sinuses, a hollow space in the bones in the upper part of the nose, right between the eyes. They’re usually filled with inflammatory fluid; however, experts are still uncertain about their relation to allergies or infections.

To be more specific, nasal polyps are smooth, semi-translucent, and pearly white to pinkish in color. They are defined as “pedunculated masses of edematous inflamed mucosa’.* And they commonly originate from the ostiomeatal complex.

In nasal polyps, the epithelial mechanical barrier (formed by apical junctional complexes between epithelial cells) is more permeable. This suggests that mucociliary dysfunction may play a role in the pathogenesis of chronic rhinosinusitis, whereas a porous barrier has been more closely linked with chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps.**

Despite the lack of a single and known cause, some people are more at risk of developing nasal polyps. 

Risk Factors

Who Is at Risk?

People who suffer from conditions that cause long-term inflammation of the nasal passages and sinuses are more at risk of developing nasal polyps. The following conditions are also associated with an increased risk in nasal polyps:

  • Vitamin D Deficiency: Some studies have found that people with a vitamin D deficiency are more at risk of developing chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps.
  • Asthma: 25% to 56% of people who suffer from asthma have nasal polyps.
  • Aspirin sensitivity: Aspirin exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD) is characterized by worsening nasal or breathing problems when taking aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Some people who suffer from nasal polyps also have AERD.
  • Churg-Strauss Syndrome: Nasal polyps are thought to be part of the initial onset of symptoms for people with Churg-Strauss Syndrome
  • Cystic fibrosis: 86% of patients with cystic fibrosis have nasal polyps. Children with cystic fibrosis are more likely to have nasal polyps as well. That’s why a child with nasal polyps must be checked for cystic fibrosis, which is a severe infection of the upper and lower respiratory tracts. 

Asthma: All You Need To Know


What Are the Symptoms of Nasal Polyps?

Symptoms of nasal polyps can resemble a cold. The key difference is that a cold will go away after a few days of medication while nasal polyps can leave you feeling stuffy and congested for weeks or even longer.

Sometimes, nasal polyps might not even cause symptoms especially if they’re smaller. However, larger nasal polyps might block the nasal passage or the sinuses making it difficult to breathe. Other symptoms of nasal polyps are:

  • A runny nose
  • Nose stuffiness that won’t go away
  • Impaired sense of smell and taste
  • Pressure in the face area
  • Nosebleeds
  • Postnasal drip

Nasal polyps will persist until you seek a treatment. Over time, the blockage of the sinus or nasal passages may result in a sinus infection.


Nasal Polyps Treatment

A doctor will do an examination of your nasal passages with a tool called a nasal endoscope. During this exam, the otolaryngologist, or a doctor who specializes in the ear, nose, and throat, will look for translucent and yellow or gray growths. 

If needed, your doctor may perform a CT scan or a computed tomography scan to determine the exact location and size of the nasal polyps. Nasal polyps treatment can include:

  • Intranasal corticosteroids (INCS) or steroid sprays
  • Oral corticosteroids: This type of treatment is next to nasal sprays if they aren’t effective. But you can take oral corticosteroids only for a limited time because of their negative side effects. For severe cases of nasal polyps, your doctor may prescribe an injectable corticosteroid.
  • Medications for allergies: If chronic sinusitis is the cause of nasal polyps, your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce symptoms.
  • Antibiotics for sinus infections caused by nasal polyps
  • Endoscopic sinus surgery


How Do You Prevent Nasal Polyps?

The key to preventing nasal polyps, or decreasing the chance of them growing back after surgery, is for you to manage conditions that cause their growth. Here are a few things you can do to prevent nasal polyps:

  • Try rinsing your nasal passages with a saline solution and a neti pot, or with a nasal spray. Nasal wash kits are available online and in pharmacies. 
  • Follow doctor’s orders regarding the management of allergies or asthma.
  • Wash your hands and stay healthy in order to avoid catching colds or other viruses that may cause inflammation of the nasal passages.
  • Avoid smoke, fumes, dust, fine debris, etc. whenever you can. Wear a mask or cover your nose whenever you must expose yourself to these irritants.


Nasal polyps are noncancerous growths in the nasal passages usually caused by an abnormal growth of cells. These are usually no cause for worry. However, nasal polyps that are larger in size may cause symptoms that can cause pain or discomfort. If you are suddenly having trouble breathing or experiencing a worsening of symptoms then contact emergency health services right away.

Read Also:

Most Common Types of Cancer in Filipino Men

Asthma Attack First Aid and Home Remedies


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Diana Rose G. Tolentino, MD, MBA

Ear Nose and Throat · HMICare Clinic & Diagnostic Center

Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Jun 21, 2021

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