Treating Nasal Polyps

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How to Shrink Nasal Polyps

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A significant portion of American adults eventually develop nasal polyps. These small, noncancerous growths can form anywhere within the nose and sinuses, and they often develop in groups. While many polyps are small enough to not cause noticeable symptoms, some grow large enough to block the nasal passages and sinuses, making normal breathing more difficult.

Fortunately, it is possible to shrink nasal polyps to make breathing easier and prevent complications, like sinus infections, from occurring. Your doctor may recommend one of several medications or at-home treatments to help reduce nasal polyps. If you’re interested in ways to better manage nasal polyps, talking with your doctor can help you determine which treatments may work best for you.

Why Worry About Nasal Polyps?

Since nasal polyps aren’t cancerous, you may wonder why you should even worry about them. Unlike other types of benign growths, nasal polyps can increase your risk of complications. In most cases, long-term inflammation contributes to nasal polyp development. But this inflammation also puts you at risk for other problems, such as sinus infections, asthma flare-ups, and even sleep apnea.

Even if you don’t have any complications, nasal polyps may simply make it harder to breathe normally. As polyps grow, they block normal airflow and fluid drainage from the nasal passages. Certain irritants, such as allergens or tobacco smoke, may make polyps larger and further reduce your ability to breathe normally. Other common, unpleasant symptoms of nasal polyps include:

  • Cough
  • Decreased sense of smell and taste
  • Facial pain and pressure around the sinuses
  • Headache
  • Itchy eyes
  • Postnasal drip
  • Runny nose
  • Snoring

How to Shrink Nasal Polyps

Shrinking nasal polyps often requires a multifaceted approach to treatment. Your doctor may first recommend that you try some at-home therapies which could help shrink nasal polyps, such as:

  • Humidifying your home. Dry air robs your nasal passages of their moisture, which may cause blockages and inflammation that can lead to nasal polyps. Use a humidifier to help keep prevent these problems.
  • Nasal rinses. Saline sprays or nasal washes also help prevent inflammation by rinsing your nasal passages clear of allergens and other irritants. These rinses also help mucus flow better within your nasal passages.
  • Practicing good nasal hygiene. In some cases, nasal polyps result from bacterial and viral infections that cause inflammation in the nose and sinuses. Good hygiene, including washing your hands regularly, can help prevent these infections.

If these therapies aren’t effective enough, prescription medications can be beneficial and provide you with fast symptom relief. Your doctor may prescribe:

  • Antihistamines and decongestants. If polyps result from long-term swelling and irritation in your nose and sinuses, your doctor may recommend antihistamine medications to treat allergies and other nasal irritants. Decongestants may help alleviate some of your symptoms, but they won’t actually shrink polyps by themselves.
  • Corticosteroid sprays. Nasal sprays containing steroids directly reduce inflammation and swelling associated with nasal polyps. In some cases, this treatment method may actually help make polyps disappear completely.
  • Oral or injectable steroids. When corticosteroid sprays aren’t effective against more severe nasal polyps, oral or injectable steroids may help clear them up. Just be sure to take these medications exactly as your doctor prescribes, since they may cause serious side effects if taken for a long time.
  • Biologic therapies. These injectable medications suppress inflammation at the source, effectively shrinking polyps to the point where they’re no longer a problem. They require regular injections for an indefinite period of time, so taking them is a commitment, but they can resolve severe polyps symptoms like chronic sinusitis for patients who haven’t found success with other treatments.

In rare cases, surgery is necessary to place a tiny stent, or tube, in the nasal passages to help keep them open. Doctors may also use this stent to deliver medications, like steroids, directly to existing polyps. Occasionally, doctors recommend surgery to simply remove troublesome nasal polyps. This type of surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis.

When nasal polyps aren’t treated properly, they’re more likely to return, even if you’ve managed to shrink them in the past. Making certain changes to your living space, like using a humidifier, and taking whatever medications your doctor prescribes is the best way to reduce nasal polyps and, for some, even make them disappear. If you live with nasal polyps and have problematic symptoms as a result, talking with your doctor about your options is the best first step to take.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 May 25
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