A woman blowing her nose.

What Causes Nasal Polyps?

What Are Nasal Polyps?

You may wonder, what are nasal polyps and what causes them? Nasal polyps are benign (non-cancerous) growths located in the lining of the nose. They are shaped like teardrops and hang down within the nasal cavity.

Nasal polyps are painless but they can cause breathing issues because of airway blockage. Nasal blockage can become an emergency that requires surgery, so always make sure to consult a doctor if you begin showing symptoms.

How Do I Know I Have Nasal Polyps?

Symptoms of nasal polyps are a lot like symptoms of common allergies: a runny nose, sneezing, a stuffy nose, or experiencing a post-nasal drip. Nasal polyps can affect your sense of smell, too. Some people's polyps go unnoticed for years because of the ambiguity. There are some people who have no signs at all and live with the polyps for years.

It is important to know that not all growths are nasal polyps and some growths are cancerous. Therefore, it is important to see your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms.

What's the Cause?

There is a wide range of reasons as to why someone might develop nasal polyps:

  • Allergies
  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Drug sensitivity
  • Immune disorders

Sometimes they can develop for no known reason. Polyps can also form because of inflammation that has developed in the body, which causes localized swelling.

Asthma and Nasal Polyps Risk

People who have asthma have a greater chance of developing nasal polyps. This is because people with asthma can experience inflammation in their airway, which can lead to developing nasal polyps.

Triggers that bring about asthma symptoms include:

  • Smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Allergens
  • Certain types of foods
  • Respiratory infections
  • Sleep apnea

It is important to discuss treatments with your primary care doctor when you have this illness.

CF and Nasal Polyps Risk

Those with cystic fibrosis (CF) can also develop nasal polyps easier than the average person. This is because CF causes inflammation in the upper and lower respiratory systems. The exact reason why CF patients develop this disease more often than others is unknown, but in CF there are issues with the layers that line the respiratory tract.

Treatment Options for Nasal Polyps

After getting a diagnosis, which usually is done by looking into the nose with a nasoscope, treatment can begin.


When it comes to medication treatment for polyps, you have a few options to choose from: oral or injectable
corticosteroids, medicine for sinusitis, or medicine to decrease swelling.

If an injection of corticosteroid is not not effective, your doctor may give you an oral version instead. Unfortunately, this type has serious side effects, so it is not given often.

Other medications that can be used for this are those that control allergens. This may seem strange but the components of allergy medication can help decrease swelling, which can help ease polyp symptoms.


Surgery is another option for people who are experiencing a nasal airway blockage. You would have to begin this process by seeing an ear, nose, and throat specialist. However, treatments for nasal polyps are not always permanent. For many people, the polyps come back in the same place they were before.

The good thing about these procedures is that they are done endoscopically. This means a tube with a light and camera are inserted into your nasal cavity; no opening up is required. From there, they can remove the polyps so you can breathe more freely.

Future Treatments

While medication and surgery have been common, traditional treatment options, there have been some potential future advancements. An option that is currently being studied is the use of biologics. Biologics are also used to help severe asthma cases. This may prove to be a successful option because biologics help target specific cells that cause issues and symptoms. This can also be helpful if people do not respond well to medicine or surgery.

Home Management

If you prefer natural treatments from the comfort of your home to manage symptoms, there are many options for you:

  • Cayenne pepper: Many spices contain capsaicin, which has been proven to help clear airways. You can add cayenne pepper to recipes or you can sweeten it with honey.
  • Neti pot: This is a device that helps clean and irrigate your nose. Not only can it help decrease your risk of nasal polyps, but it can decrease your risk of allergies too.
  • Inhale steam: Whether it be holding your head over a kettle, a steaming bowl of water, or taking a steaming hot shower, steam has many nasal benefits. Since it has the power to clear airways, it may help you breathe easier and get rid of headaches.
  • Tea tree oil: This is an essential oil that is found in a lot of facial care products. It helps reduce redness and itching of acne, so it may be able to do the same for nasal polyps.

Final Notes

Nasal polyps are benign growths that can form for a number of reasons: asthma, inflammation, cystic fibrosis, or allergies. However, sometimes they can form for no known reason. You can feel like you are having a runny or stuffy nose, experience loss of smell, or show no symptoms at all.

It is important to see your doctor when experiencing these symptoms because not all growths are polyps; some can be cancerous.

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