Symptoms and causes

What is it?

Nasal polyps are benign tumours of the nasal mucosa.


They originate from the ethmoidal sinuses. Those are the sinuses located between your eyes. Nasal polyps can cause problems such as:

  • nasal congestion
  • reduced or loss of smell
  • headache
  • feeling of pressure
  • chronic or acute sinusitis due to a an impediment of the normal drainage of nasal secretions

It is not yet known what causes nasal polyps. Nasal polyps can be associated with certain risk factors such as:

  • the presence of asthma
  • intolerance to Aspirin
  • mucoviscidosis (cystic fibrosis)
  • primary ciliary dyskinesia

Diagnosis and treatment

The physician will examine your nose using a headlamp and endoscope (a scope to examine the inner nose). Sometimes additional testing is necessary, such as:

  • an inhalation test
  • allergy testing
  • medical imaging (CT scan)
  • ...

The treatment consists primarily of nasal sprays and local cortisone sprays. These can be used long term, without dependency or signficant reabsorption in the blood stream. Cortisone pills or antibiotics may also prescribed. For severe, recurrent or therapy-resistent nasal polyps, the decision may be made to remove them surgically (FESS: functional endoscopic sinus surgery).

The term 'nasal polyps' is frequently used to refer to the 'nasal tonsils' (adenoids). The nasal tonsil plays a role in the immune system in very young children. The adenoics are located at the juncture where the nose and the throat meet and have nothing to do with nasal polyps that may be in the nasal sinuses. The adenoid tissue may be removed in very young children who have:

  • nasal obstruction
  • chronic open-mouth breathing
  • snoring
  • runny nose
  • postnasal drip
  • ear infection

This is called an adenotomy.

Treatment centres and specialisations

Ear, nose, and throat diseases

Latest publication date: 14/04/2021
Supervising author: Dr Marin Eline