Nasal polyps are non-cancerous growths that can be found on the nasal lining or on the sinus cavities. They can be large or small in size depending on the patient, though larger polyps can obstruct breathing and sometimes require surgery to be removed.
Nasal polyps can form due to inflammation of the nasal passages, especially if this occurs frequently for various reasons. This may be the result of Chronic Sinusitis or Chronic Rhinitis, conditions which persists for months or years without adequate treatment.
Nasal polyps are caused by repeated inflammation of the mucous membrane inside the nose. When a patient experiences chronic rhinitis or sinusitis, the nasal cavities are blocked on a regular basis and this leads to swelling as they become red and irritated. Sometimes, this swelling can last for up to 12 weeks.
With time, nasal polyps begin to form on the mucosa. However, they can also be caused by conditions such as asthma and sensitivity to certain types of medications.
Some causes of nasal polyps in Singapore may include:
· Rhinitis and sinusitis
· Asthma problems
· Blood vessel inflammation (Churg-Strauss syndrome)
· Frequent smoking
· Exposure to dust or other irritants
· Sensitivity to certain medications
· Cystic fibrosis
· Difficulty breathing through the nose
· Pain around sinuses
· Postnasal drip
· Buildup of phlegm
· Sore throat
· Teeth pain
· Decreased sense of taste or smell
Nasal polyps are painless and benign growths that form inside the nasal cavity. However, if left untreated, they may grow in size and cause discomfort.
As nasal polyps are typically caused by chronic rhinitis and sinusitis, experiencing these conditions whilst dealing with nasal polyps can worsen the congestion in your nose. Not only can this lead to infections, you may experience facial tension near your sinus area which is often painful.
Having difficulty breathing through your nose can also lead to a sore throat as you breathe through your mouth throughout the day. Postnasal drip can also cause further irritation to the throat, leading to pain as you try to clear the buildup of phlegm in your throat.
Depending on the size of the polyp, nasal polyps also lead to a decreased sense of taste and smell due to blockages in your nose. While small nasal polyps rarely cause discomfort, large nasal polyps can grow to a size that interferes with your sense of smell and taste when consuming different foods.
Nasal polyps are a common condition experienced by Singaporeans. However, they are more prevalent in adults than in children. It is rare for children under the age of 10 to have nasal polyps, unless uncommon symptoms are exhibited or an immunodeficiency disorder is present. Usually, most patients are young or middle-aged adults who come to see a specialist due to extreme blockages in the nasal cavities.
Those with asthma are at risk of suffering from nasal polyps. This is due to inflammation in the lungs which is also part of the body’s respiratory signal pathway. However, nasal polyps can worsen asthma. In Singapore, 5% of adults and 20% of children suffer from asthma. Patients may experience frequent asthma attacks, making their condition more severe due to difficulties with breathing.
Nasal polyps are also a risk for those with cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes a buildup of thick mucus, making patients susceptible to conditions such as chronic rhinitis and sinusitis. This can lead to nasal polyps due to inflammation in the nasal cavities.
Nasal polyps are diagnosed during a medical examination when your ENT doctor confirms your symptoms. Your doctor may perform diagnostic tests such as an endoscopy. During an endoscopy, a numbing spray is used to numb your nose and throat while a tube with a small camera is carefully inserted into your nose to take a closer look.
A CT scan can be carried out to help pinpoint the location of nasal polyps within your nasal cavity. This can be useful when discussing your symptoms to decide if they are caused by allergens or the presence of nasal polyps. Through a CT scan, you can also rule out the possibility of other cancerous growths.
In Singapore, nasal polyps are treated with medication or through surgery. Your ENT doctor may first prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines such as steroid nasal spray to help reduce inflammation and bring the swelling down. This may shrink the polyp(s) completely and take away the need for surgery.
You may also be prescribed with saline nasal washes to keep your nasal cavity moist and prevent further irritation or buildup of mucus. If your blockages are caused by allergies, you will be administered with antihistamines to clear your nasal pathways.
The treatment method is dependent on the size of the polyps, whether they are larger or smaller. If symptoms do not go away after drug-related treatments, your specialist may suggest surgery to remove the polyps.