Nasal polyps are soft growths in the paranasal sinuses in the lining of the air-filled spaces linked to the nasal cavity. Although nasal polyps are benign and non-cancerous, they can grow in clusters and make breathing difficult. The condition affects almost four percent of our country’s population. This article discusses the causes and symptoms of nasal polyps.
According to doctors and ENT specialists, it is difficult to ascertain the direct etiology of nasal polyps. However, the following health conditions and risk factors contribute to their growth in the nasal cavity:
- Chronic sinus infections
Statistics suggest that more than 10 million people in our country suffer from chronic sinusitis every year. Rhinosinusitis or chronic sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinuses mostly due to infections or allergies. Sinusitis results in the accumulation of fluids in the nasal cavity, and if the symptoms persist for more than 12 weeks, it may develop into nasal polyps.
- Allergic rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is a milder form of sinusitis. It is mostly caused due to inhalation of allergens, such as pet dander, pollen, dirt, or dust. The immune system responds to these substances negatively, leading to inflammation of the sinuses. The inflammation may also cause fluid accumulation, further developing into nasal polyps.
Asthma is an allergic condition that causes inflammation of the airways and generates extra mucus. While asthma does not particularly cause nasal polyps, it increases the risk. This is because the excess mucus may accumulate in the sinuses or nasal cavity, causing inflammation. If inflammation persists, it may result in nasal polyps.
- Cystic fibrosis
It is a genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections, resulting in excess mucus getting trapped in the airways like the nasal cavity. If the mucus traps pathogens, it may lead to infections and inflammation (sinusitis), further developing into nasal polyps.
Nasal polyps are painless due to the lack of nerve sensations. Patients might not even realize until the polyps start blocking most of the nasal passage. Hence, it is necessary to consult a specialist if the following symptoms persist:
- Chronic nasal congestion
As mentioned, when nasal polyps grow big enough to block most of the nasal passage, it results in nasal congestion.
- Runny nose
The nasal congestion makes it difficult for the mucus to remain in the nasal passages, resulting in a runny nose.
- Reduced sense of smell
Nasal polyps obstruct most of the nasal passage and might also block the nose’s olfactory nerves that sense smell. This may cause patients to lose their sense of smell.
Nasal polyps can make it difficult to breathe through the nose as they obstruct airflow through the nasal passage. Consequently, patients are forced to breathe through their mouths when sleeping, which can result in snoring.