Nasal polyps 


Nasal polyps

Nasal polyps are fleshy swellings that grow from the lining of your nose or sinuses (the small cavities inside your nose). In this video, Steve describes his experience of living with nasal polyps.

Media last reviewed: 21/09/2012

Next review due: 21/09/2014

How common are nasal polyps?

It is difficult to estimate exactly how common nasal polyps are because small polyps that do not cause symptoms may go undetected.

However, one study estimated that around 1% of people will have nasal polyps at some point in their life. Each year in England around 5,000-6,000 people are treated for nasal polyps.

Polyps usually affect people aged 40 years or over. They are four times more common in men than in women. Children rarely get polyps; they usually only affect children with cystic fibrosis.

Nasal polyps are abnormal tissue growths that grow inside the nasal passages and sinuses.

Sinuses are small, air-filled cavities found within the bones of the face. You have sinuses on either side of your nose and behind your cheekbones, eyes and forehead.

What do nasal polyps look like?

Nasal polyps vary in size. They can be yellow, grey or pink in colour. Each polyp is teardrop-shaped, and they look like grapes on a stem when fully grown.

Large nasal polyps can block your nasal passage and cause symptoms such as a blocked or runny nose and a loss of smell and taste.

These symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, such as the common cold. However, colds usually get better within 2-14 days, whereas nasal polyps do not clear up without treatment.

Read more about the symptoms of nasal polyps

What causes nasal polyps?

It is not clear what causes nasal polyps. They appear to occur as a result of inflammation (redness and swelling) inside the lining of the nasal passageways and sinuses (mucus membrane). It is not known what triggers the inflammation.

There are several factors which increase your risk of developing nasal polyps. These include:

  • asthma - a long-term condition that can cause wheezing and breathlessness
  • allergic rhinitis - where substances such as dust mites or animal fur cause cold-like symptoms, such as sneezing and a blocked nose 
  • cystic fibrosis - a condition where the lungs and digestive system become clogged with a sticky fluid
  • aspirin intolerance - where allergic-like symptoms, such as a rash, itchy skin, sneezing, a watery nose and wheezing, occur if you take aspirin; some people with an aspirin intolerance also have a similar reaction to other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen

If nasal polyps develop in or near your sinuses, they may cause a sinus infection, resulting in your face becoming painful and tender.

Nasal polyps are not cancerous and do not increase your risk of developing nasal cancer in the future.

Read more about the causes of nasal polyps.

Diagnosing nasal polyps

Your GP will ask you about your symptoms and examine your nostrils.

If you have nasal polyps near the openings of your nostrils, they may be visible by shining a light up your nose. However, further tests may be needed to locate polyps further up your nasal passageways or in one of your sinuses.

Read more about how nasal polyps are diagnosed.

Treating nasal polyps

Nasal polyps can be treated with steroid medication (corticosteroids) to help shrink them. Corticosteroids can either be prescribed as a short course of tablets or in the form of nasal drops or spray.

Surgery is recommended for larger polyps and those that do not respond to medication. The procedure, known as endoscopic sinus surgery, is carried out using a piece of equipment called an endoscope.

The endoscope used during endoscopic sinus surgery consists of a rigid, metal tube with a camera at one end. The camera gives a clear picture of the polyps and nasal passages. The polyps are removed using tiny surgical instruments, such as a micro-debrider, which is a revolving motorised saw.

Nasal polyps usually grow back. Depending on their original size, this can take a few months or a few years after treatment with medication or surgery. People with associated conditions, such as asthma or aspirin intolerance, are more likely to have recurring polyps.

Read more about treating nasal polyps.

Page last reviewed: 13/03/2013

Next review due: 13/03/2015


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The 20 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Mr G S said on 19 November 2014

Hello ma50.
Sorry, but I have only just seen your post. There are several kits available but the one I bought was the Neilmed Sinus Rinse Kit from a well known high street chemist. My GP tells me they are not available on prescription and I have now found that they are much cheaper to buy via the internet. The cost for me is well worthwhile as the difference this has made to my life is incredible. It is important though to make it a regular part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth. I have now moved on to a battery operated 'Sinugator', which I have found even more effective.
Do hope that it works for you.

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Davidsg said on 04 October 2014

I have suffered with nasal polyps since 2009. Regular 30 day courses of antibiotics, varying courses of steroids along with Nasonex have been prescribed. Seldom went longer than 3 months without a visit to my ENT doctor. At the end of 2013 i'd had enough and was resigned to having them surgically removed. Then my doctor recommended i use a humidifier at night. Works like a dream and i haven't been back to see him since November 2013. I use a daily regimen of Neil Med sinus rinse (each morning), over the counter saline solution (post rinse) and the humidifier and my nose is clearer than it's been for years. Haven't used Nasonex since April.

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ma50 said on 16 June 2014

I have been suffering from nasal polyps since 1995 and had an operation in 1999 and i had my 2nd operation in July 2013 , but no improvement,Nasonex nasal sprayy, flixonase drop nothing works,. @ Mr G S could you please let me know the saline nasal rinse kit's name? so that i can tell my GP to prescribe me this one, or if it can buy without prescription.

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Mr G S said on 30 December 2013

I was diagnosed with allergic rhinitis over eight years ago and have been treated with various corticosteroid nasal sprays, none of which have been particularly successful. Early in 2013 my condition worsened and I was told I had nasal polyps. I was referred to an ENT consultant who ordered a CT scan, which revealed 'grade 3 polyps and extensive polyposis with osteomeatal complex problems'. I was told that there was no alternative to surgery to remove the polyps.

The surgery was arranged for early September but in August I became quite poorly with sinusitis and heavy congestion. However, whilst having an eye examination in mid-August, my optician suggested that a saline nasal rinse solution may provide some relief. I immediately bought a kit and started to use it twice daily.

The improvement was immediate. The amount of 'gunge' that was washed from my nasal passages was unbelievable and following the suggestion with the kit, Nasonex was used immediately after rinsing. I was admitted to hospital for surgery in early September but after an examination by the consultant I was sent home as he said that he could see no polyps worth removing. I continued to use the saline rinse twice daily and after a recent consultation I am told the polyps have gone and have been discharged.

The relief that I have gained is incredible. I can breathe freely, am no longer bunged up, have regained some sense of smell and am sleeping throughout the night. I believe that this improvement is mainly due to the saline rinse although it is logical to think that if the sinuses are clean before the Nasonex is applied then it has a better chance of working. I shall continue to use it.

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Mr All That said on 25 October 2013

Hey guys,

I've always had trouble breathing through my nose, and have been on sprays for a long time.

However, a couple of months ago I put together a mix of teas. I chose the ingredients for a totally different purpose but I quickly discovered that this blend of teas worked better than my Nasonex spray.

I'm not yet sure which ingredients are the active ones in this regard, but it's been working for a month now. Just one cup a while before bedtime, and it'll hold me till next evening.

The mix is this:

1) Maypop (purple passionflower)
2) Celery seeds (Apium graveolens)
3) Chamoile
4) Sage
5) Glycyrrhiza glabra (called english licorice powder here in Denmark)

I'll fill up half a standard teanet with this stuff, and let it zimmer in the hot water for at least ten minutes. It's a good, strong tea.

Some nights used to be okay, and others I would be 90% unable to breathe through my nose, and often had to sleep with my mouth open.

But no more, and no more hormonefilled sprays :)

I hope someone finds this, tries it, and has an experience as good as mine :)

Best regards,


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Claire_9876 said on 10 July 2013

I have had 2 operations to remove my polyps, both times they have come back after months. I have suffered for 7 years now. I have found a website there are lots of tips on there. I have tried cutting out sugar and after 4 days of using the low carb sugar fee diet I got my sense of smell back for 10 mins. Nose seems to be getting better by the day. It is definitely worth a read. I wish polyps was taken more seriously by the NHS.

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fivefootman said on 04 June 2013

I had nasal polyps removed as a child in the early 90s, hopefully the treatment has moved on as having a nose pack unstitched and removed was the most pain I've ever experienced! Anyone know if they still do that?

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TADGE said on 08 February 2013

I have has polyps surgery in the past and was free for approx 6 months.I was referred back to the hospital but was told that they could not perform more surgery due to scar tissue still being there and I was signed off. I was given various sprays after this which were not much use until I was prescribed Otrivine and told to use it for only a week. This spray proved to be excellent and did what it said it was supposed to do. I ended up buying this product regularly to enable me to breath properly. I know I shouls not be using this product regularly but the alternative is not very good.

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entnightmare said on 24 October 2012

Just been looking up how much it would cost to go private to have my Nasal polyps removed.
£2500 plus consultation fees.
Guess I wont be doing that then lol.

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entnightmare said on 24 October 2012

I have had nasal polyps for over 7 years. I have had them removed twice so far on NHS and there back again. I cant breathe at all up ether nostril and my nose is continually running. I have also had no sense of smell for over 7 years. I can see my polyps just by pointing a torch up my nose and they are grey in colour and have some signs of bleeding. I have been to the doctors twice in the last 3 weeks about this and the first time I was given steroid tables which worked great and I could breathe for a few days up one side of my nose. When my 10 day corse ran out my nose sealed back up again. So now am on Flixonase nasal spray which has not helped at all. All its doing is giving me nose bleeds and my heads thumping.
Before that I have been taking Nasonex for 2-3 years twice every day.
Dont think Polyps are taken seriously enough and there should be more help out there for folk with this problem as it really effects peoples lifestyle.
I am off work again because of my nasal polyps as i work in a retail shop serving customers and its not nice having your nose dripping down your face.

Phoned my doctors again to see if I can make another appointment and I have to wait 6 days to see my doctor.

Why does the whole process take so long to have them removed. It makes such a difference been able to breathe properly once there gone..

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umm qasim said on 09 January 2012

Replay for mega9999 said on 19 November 2011.

Try west middlesex hospital its located in isleworth. My brother had his operation a while back and they burnt it using laser. His now during really well and its hasn't grown back and he does not need to have another operation. My son is also due to have his operation for polyp removal this month so will be able to confirm if that"s still the case

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mega9999 said on 19 November 2011

I have had 2 (1 under NHS and 1 under BUPA) operations under general anaesthetic to remove nasal polyps.
I need another operation as polyps are back and the Nasonex I am using is not very effective.
I am bit reluctant to go through another operation under general anaesthetic as infections sets in before I have recovered due to bleeding.
I read on this site that “some surgeons now use a laser to burn away the polyps”.
I think this may be better for me but have not been able to find out which hospital does this under NHS. I asked my GP and Hospital consultant and they do not know.
I would like to know which hospital offers laser surgery and also would be interested to hear from someone who has laser surgery carried out.

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huntersmoon said on 22 May 2011

I have a nasal drip, doctor thinks it might be polyps. If it isn't, can anyone give any advice. I have already used a sinus wash pump, which did not improve anything. It is driving me nuts! I wake up and my throat has a massive lump in it.

Any advice would really be appreciated.

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kevhull said on 15 November 2010

I had Polyps removed from my nose in 1985 and enjoyed 4 years of nasal clarity before the problem surfaced again almost a year ago.

The Steroid drops controlled the Polyp growth for a time, but of course doctors don't like long term use of them -due to to the damage they apparently cause!

Over to a nasal spray, which seemed to help for a while but doesn't prevent re-growth of Polyps.

I'm shortly to undergo further Polyp removal under General anaesthetic and an overnight stay.
This is my preference to the regular sprays and drops, which are pretty useless in the long run, in my opinion.

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isright said on 15 January 2010

Always had lots nasal mucous and mouth breather. Doc said I had a nasalpolyp.Now I keep sneezing and my brows hurt. I was diagnosed with sleep apnoea in 1997.Anysuggestions?

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sana1234 said on 06 November 2009

hi i have been having problems with my nose which is getting worse. i thought it would go away but it didnt. it is really starting to irritate me and i cant sleep. i never told anyone about as i thought i was the only one now i know im not im going to do something about it once and for all.

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sana1234 said on 06 November 2009

hi i hvave a blocked nose i got so used to it i began to feel liek as if it is normal. now i know tehir is solution i am going to try it. havign this problem is really irritating. i also never todl anyoen about it before becasue i thought people would laugh.

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sana1234 said on 06 November 2009

since i had my tonsils taken out i began to notice a difference in my nose. gradually as years passedd my nose became blocked most of the time as if i have got a cold. it is really irritating and doesnt let me sleep at night. i cant smell most of the time

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Kate-Weeden said on 17 July 2009

Im 14 and I have a one sided nasal polyps :( My nose is very red and inflamed. It gives me headakches all the time and its very painful. I may have to have a operaion to get it out if it doesnt get better because my membrains have been inflamed for mounths.

My docter has given me painkillers and tablets for it and in two weeks ihave to go for a check to see if its gotten any better. :)

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Kate-Weeden said on 17 July 2009

Im 14 years old and I have a very painful one sided nasal polyps >_<
It seriously hurts and my mebrains in my nose have been inflamed for ages :( Its been all red and inflamed up my nose and I have trouble breathing through my nose alot.

Im on tablets to make them better and pain killers to ease the pain. My docter said for me to go back in two weeks to see how it is. :)

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