Chances are you don’t give your nasal cavity and sinuses much thought until you’re congested or suffering from a sinus headache. These spaces are meant to be empty and open. The moist, exposed surfaces are designed to warm up and humidify the air you breathe, while the tiny hairs and mucus are there to trap airborne microorganisms entering your body.
Anything that restricts these functions — such as nasal polyps — can make it hard to breathe. Nasal polyps are soft, noncancerous growths in the nasal cavity, and they can inhibit breathing and cause a number of complications.
Otolaryngologist Alexis Furze, MD, specializes in treating conditions that interfere with the natural flow of air through the nasal cavity at his practice in Newport Beach, California. Though these growths are benign, they can make life more difficult. Here’s what you need to know about nasal polyps.
The basics of nasal polyps
Nasal polyps are soft, teardrop-shaped growths made of inflamed tissue. As mentioned, they’re noncancerous, but they can still be problematic.
Polyps can inhibit or block nasal breathing, and they can also impede natural drainage of the nasal cavity. Furthermore, polyps can combine with other conditions and factors to crowd the airways.
Risk factors for nasal polyps
The development of nasal polyps isn’t fully understood, though there are connections to chronic inflammation and immune system responses. Some factors may increase your chances for growing nasal polyps, though their presence doesn’t guarantee that they’ll cause breathing issues. Common risk factors include:
- Reaching age 30
- Having asthma
- Having allergies to aspirin
- Having allergies to fungus
- Having hay fever
- Having chronic sinus infections
- Having cystic fibrosis
- Having a vitamin D deficiency
There may be a genetic connection, too. If someone in your immediate family has nasal polyps, you may be more at risk for them.
Complications from nasal polyps
There’s sometimes a cyclical nature to polyps. Sinus infections can raise the risk for developing nasal polyps. Nasal polyps can then increase the risk for additional sinus infections. The same holds true for asthma. Asthma can increase the risk for polyp growth, and polyps can increase the risk for more asthma attacks.
Restrictions in airflow due to nasal polyps can also contribute to obstructive sleep apnea, which is a potentially dangerous sleep disorder that briefly stops breathing many times throughout the night. Obstructive sleep apnea, in turn, can increase the risk for several other health issues, such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
Treating nasal polyps
There are a variety of options when it comes to treating nasal polyps. Dr. Furze frequently recommends SINUVA™ sinus implants, which help shrink nasal polyps. If the polyps are particularly problematic, he may recommend functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) to free up space in the nasal cavity and sinuses.
Or, he may recommend oral, injectable, or nasal spray corticosteroids, which can shrink or eliminate polyps. Furthermore, he may recommend antihistamines or antibiotics to treat conditions that can cause chronic inflammation in the sinuses and nasal cavity.
If you have polyps and want treatment, or if you want to see if nasal polyps are causing your symptoms, Dr. Furze can give you a thorough evaluation and discuss your next steps. To learn more, call 949-389-6673 to book an appointment with the practice of Alexis Furze, MD, today.