About one in 100 of the UK population will develop nasal polyps at some stage in their life. They can affect anyone, although most cases occur in those over the age 40 and they are rare in children under 16. They are four times more common in men than women.
Polyps are painless non-cancerous growths found inside the nasal passages. The primary symptoms are a blocked nose, difficulty in breathing, a dulled sense of taste and possibly, very loud snoring. Further, a runny nose (rhinorrhoea) and postnasal drip – the sensation of something continually running down the back of the throat – are common.
It is known that certain conditions that can make their growth more likely include asthma, allergy to aspirin and cystic fibrosis.
Polyps can vary greatly in size and several can grow like a ‘small bunch of grapes.’ They will often continue to grow until treated, although rates of growth vary. Very large, untreated ones can make the nose and front of the face enlarge and cause infections.
Initial treatment is usually steroid nose drops or tablets to shrink the growths with a steroid nasal spray being used to prevent a recurrence.
However, in some cases surgery, is sometimes necessary.
When this occurs a telescopic instrument known as an endoscope, about the thickness of a drinking straw is used. A small camera is attached to the device allowing the surgeon to see the nasal passages through a number of angles and find even small polyps in the nooks and corner of the nasal passage. The surgical procedure, which is carried out under local; or in severe cases, under general anaesthetic, involves using fine cutting instruments to remove the polyps. In some cases heated blades are used which simultaneously cut and stop bleeding, while larger polyps require dissolvable stitches.