Sleep apnea, recurrent sinus infections, frequent asthma attacks, and difficulty breathing through your nose all have one thing in common: They can all be caused by nasal polyps. Polyps are fleshy, painless, benign (non-cancerous) growths that form inside your sinuses or along the lining of your nasal passages. When they’re very small, they rarely cause symptoms, and that means you probably won’t even know you have them. But when they’re larger or when you have several of them, they can block your airway, irritate your sinuses, and prevent normal mucus drainage, making it a lot more likely you’ll have problems with breathing or airway health.
Causes of nasal polyps
The exact cause of nasal polyps isn’t completely understood, but doctors think they’re related to chronic inflammation in your airways or sinuses. Polyps can develop in anyone, but they tend to be much more common among people who:
- have asthma
- have allergies
- have sensitivity issues with medicines including aspirin
- are prone to infections, especially infections of the upper respiratory system or sinuses
Some chronic diseases and medical conditions like cystic fibrosis and Churg-Strauss syndrome can also increase your risk of developing nasal polyps. They’re much more common among adults than children.
Symptoms of nasal polyps
While not all nasal polyps cause symptoms, when they interfere with breathing or mucus drainage, they can cause problems like:
- chronic sinus infections
- sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses or nasal passages that lasts for several weeks at a time)
- postnasal drip
- loss of smell or decrease in your ability to smell
- loss or decrease in your ability to taste
- problems breathing through your nose
When polyps are very large or you have a lot of polyps, you might have symptoms like:
- facial pressure or pain, especially in the forehead and cheeks and behind the eyes
- frequent headaches
- pain or pressure around your upper teeth
- changes in the shape of your nose
Of course, other problems can cause the same types of symptoms. The only way to know for sure if you have nasal polyps is to schedule an exam at Houston Sinus Surgery so your sinuses can be evaluated.
Treating nasal polyps
Very small polyps that don’t cause symptoms usually don’t require treatment. But when polyps are symptomatic, treatment usually begins with conservative, nonsurgical options. Conservative treatment typically includes corticosteroids or other medications to help combat infections and decrease irritation and inflammation in your nasal passages and sinuses. When medications are ineffective, Dr. Yeung may recommend a minimally-invasive procedure called balloon sinuplasty, which uses a special balloon to gently compress polyps and open your nasal passages. When polyps cause severe symptoms or when they don’t respond to conservative treatment, Dr. Yeung may recommend a minimally invasive surgery called functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS).
FESS uses a long, flexible instrument called an endoscope. The scope features a tiny camera that’s used to examine the inside of your sinuses and nasal passages. Dr. Yeung removes the polyps (a procedure called a polypectomy) using special instruments designed for endoscopic surgery. A few weeks after the surgery, balloon sinuplasty may be used to enlarge the nasal passages and improve both breathing and sinus drainage. Because FESS removes less tissue than other polypectomy procedures, there’s less bleeding, swelling, and discomfort — and healing is faster. Most patients can expect to get back to their regular activities within a week to 10 days of their surgery. You'll probably notice some stuffiness in your nose during the initial stages of healing, but once recovery is complete, you can expect a significant improvement in your ability to breathe through your nose, as well as an improvement in other symptoms, like snoring and recurrent infections. Depending on your symptoms before surgery, you may also notice improvements in your ability to smell and taste, and your allergy and asthma symptoms and attacks may be reduced as well.
Put an end to your nasal and sinus symptoms
Nasal polyps are just one possible cause of breathing-related symptoms and recurrent sinus infections. To find out what's causing your symptoms and learn about treatments at Houston Sinus Surgery that can improve your health and wellness, book an appointment online today.