Treating Nasal Polyps

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Chronic Sinusitis and Nasal Polyps

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Young African American woman looking stressed holding hand to forehead with eyes closed

Chronic sinusitis, also known as chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), is one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States. If your sinuses are inflamed, or irritated, for 12 weeks or longer, you may have chronic sinusitis, which puts you at greater risk of nasal polyps. These growths in the lining of your sinuses or nasal cavities aren’t painful, but they can interfere with your breathing. Nasal polyps also aren’t cancer, but it’s still important to talk about them with your doctor. It’s the only way to know if you have chronic sinusitis, nasal polyps, or both, and get effective treatment so you can start feeling better. 

Understanding Chronic Sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis makes it hard to breathe through your nose over a long period of time—not days or weeks, but three months or more. Look for these lasting symptoms:

  • Thick discharge from your nose
  • Trouble breathing through your nose
  • Nasal drainage at the back of your throat
  • Face pain or pressure, especially affecting cheeks, nose, forehead
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Aches in your upper teeth and jaw
  • Bad breath

The Relationship Between Chronic Sinusitis and Nasal Polyps

About 12% of people around the world have chronic sinusitis, and 20% of those with chronic sinusitis have nasal polyps, which tend to develop in people in their 30s and 40s. The combined conditions are called chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps (CRSwNP). Common symptoms of CRSwNP are:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Nasal pain
  • Face pain or pressure
  • Loss of smell

Treatment for Chronic Sinusitis With Nasal Polyps

If you’re diagnosed with chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps, your healthcare team may include an allergist and an otolaryngologist, a specialist in problems of the ear, nose, and throat (also referred to as an ENT). Your team will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan. The following treatments are typically tried one at a time, in the order listed here:

  • Saline nasal rinse
  • Corticosteroids taken by mouth short-term to reduce swelling
  • Corticosteroid nasal spray or rinse used longer-term
  • Newer, biologic anti-inflammatory medications given by injection longer-term or implanted in your sinus cavity, if corticosteroids alone aren’t effective
  • Minimally invasive sinus surgery, with no cuts on the face, to open the sinus passage
  • Traditional sinus surgery to remove damaged sinus tissue

 

Antibiotics aren’t usually effective in treating chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps, and antihistamines can make symptoms worse.

Prep for Your Doctor’s Appointment

It can help ease your mind and help your doctor help you if you jot down some personal information, along with your questions, in advance. Here are a few things it may help your doctor to know:

  • How long you’ve had symptoms of nasal polyps
  • How much they bother you
  • Whether you always have symptoms, or if they come and go
  • What tends to make your symptoms better or worse

 

As you get ready to talk with your doctor, know you’re taking the best next step to understanding what’s going on with your sinuses and getting real relief.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Mar 19
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Chronic sinusitis diagnosis. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-sinusitis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351667
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