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Nasal Polyps/Asthma

Your nose fulfills some incredibly important functions such as sense of smell, providing the lungs with good quality air, and also provides an important immune function as many bacteria and viruses are eliminated in the nose.

Your sinuses are air pockets in the bones of your face that are connected to your nose by small tubes – these channels permit air to flow from the nose into the sinuses and allow drainage of mucous from the sinus into the nose. If the size of this tube is affected, it can impact on the function of the sinuses and a blockage can cause rhinnosinusitis.

What are nasal polyps?

Nasal polyps are soft, non-cancerous growths that develop on the lining of your nose or sinuses.

What causes them?

Nasal polyps result from chronic inflammation in the lining of your nose or sinuses. Exactly what triggers the inflammation is not always clear. It can be caused by allergies, either inhaled allergens, or even some food allergies.

What are the problems associated with nasal polyps?

Small nasal polyps usually cause few problems, but larger ones can affect breathing, cause chronic sinus infections and diminish sense of smell. Sometimes they may cause dull headaches or snoring and, in very rare cases, massive nasal polyps can alter the shape of your face.

What are your treatment options?

The main treatment is nasal steroids (either as a spray or drops) but this might not be effective if you have a bent partition in the nose or if the polyps are in the sinuses. A doctor may also prescribe an oral corticosteroid in combination with the nasal spray or as a standalone treatment. Steroids can cause side effects, and patients will only be prescribed them for a short period.

Allergy medicine in the form of antihistamines might be prescribed to control the inflammation, but they do not eliminate the polyps. Antibiotics might be prescribed to deal with any sinus infection, but again these will not treat the polyps.

Research has shown that chronic sinusitis might be caused by an immune system response to environmental fungus, so anti-fungal medicines might be useful.

Treatment for nasal polyps may also involve surgery if medications are not effective. Mr Fayad will be able to determine the type of operation depending on the size, number and location of the polyps. Options for nasal polyps surgery include:

  • Polypectomy: small or isolated polyps can often be completely removed using a small mechanical suction device, or an instrument which cuts and extracts soft tissue. This is performed on an outpatient basis and afterwards you will be treated for any underlying inflammation, usually with corticosteroid nasal sprays, and sometimes with antibiotics or oral steroids. Even so, polyps frequently return, and patients may need additional surgery.
  • Endoscopic sinus surgery: this is a more extensive procedure, which not only removes polyps, but also opens the part of the sinus cavity where polyps usually form. If the sinuses are very blocked or inflamed, the patient’s doctor may open even more of your sinus cavity. In both cases, your surgeon uses a thin, rigid tube and a camera called a video endoscope. Because endoscopic surgery requires small incisions, you generally heal more quickly, and with less discomfort than with other types of surgery. Still, full recovery may take several weeks, and polyps often return.

What affect do nasal polyps have on asthma?

In a recent study carried out at Basildon Hospital it was discovered that almost every asthmatic patient has nasal polyps and, conversely, many patients presenting with nasal polyps also suffer from asthma. Most patients will see an improvement in their symptoms when nasal polyps are treated.

It is very important that patients suffering from either asthma, nasal polyps or both, are given comprehensive allergy tests, because curing an underlying allergy will often cure the asthma and/or nasal polyps at the same time.

What is the link between nasal polyps and sleep disorders/snoring?

Patients with nasal polyps often suffer from snoring, and treating the polyps is necessary to deal with the snoring problems. Nasal polyps can also cause a more serious condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome, where the patients stop and start breathing a number of times during sleep.

Click here for more information on Sleep Disorders/Snoring.

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