Nasal Polyps and Sinus Infections

2022-12-03 20:53:16 By : Mr. Pound Wu

Shamard Charles, MD, is a physician-journalist and public health doctor who advances health policy through health communication and health promotion.

Benjamin F. Asher, MD, is a board-certified otolaryngologist. He has a private practice in New York City where he focuses on natural and integrative healing. Tonsillectomy Instruments Set

Nasal polyps and sinus infections are two conditions connected in several ways, including their symptoms and how each may lead to the other.

Nasal polyps are painless lumps of soft, noncancerous tissue growing on the lining of the sinuses or nasal passages. They hang down like grapes or teardrops singly or in clusters. They are caused by chronic inflammation and are frequently associated with sinus infections, allergies, some immune disorders, and other health problems.

Both sinus infections and nasal polyps can block the nasal passages, causing facial pain and a reduced sense of smell. These symptoms are often nonspecific, meaning they are seen in many conditions, so it can be confusing to determine the exact cause of the problem. If you are having frequent sinus infections, it may be a sign of nasal polyps.

This article will discuss the connection between nasal polyps and sinus infections, as well as polyps' symptoms, causes, and treatment.

Sinus infections (rhinosinusitis ) are classified as chronic when they last for more than 12 weeks. Nasal polyps are commonly seen in people who have chronic inflammation of the sinuses. How they develop is not well understood, but chronic inflammation is at the root of most theories.

Nasal polyps are inflammatory growths that are likely develop due to a complex interplay of factors that include those involving the immune system and genetics. Viruses, bacteria, and fungi can trigger immune and inflammatory reactions that damage the lining of the nasal surfaces.

In some people, the chronic inflammation they experience leads to growth of cells and blood vessels that form a polyp.

Small polyps may not cause any symptoms, but large polyps that block the nasal passages can severely impact breathing, sleeping, and overall quality of life.

Even more, polyps may become a breeding ground for infection, worsening existing infections and causing new ones due to constant irritation and the breakdown of nasal epithelial tissue, which is tissue that lines body surfaces, including the nasal cavity.  

Chronic infection of the sinuses can lead to inflammation that stimulates the formation of nasal polyps. Viruses and bacteria may cause these infections, but a person may have immune system factors that result in their symptoms lingering and going from acute to chronic.

Also, polyps themselves can cause infections. If your nose is constantly blocked, irritation can cause the epithelial tissue in the nose to break down, leading to inflammation and a buildup of fluid. This fluid allows bacteria to grow. Chronic inflammation of the sinuses makes the area more prone to viral and bacterial infections, adding to the cycle of polyp growth and generation.

During the early stages of polyp formation, you may not experience any symptoms, but as polyps get larger and larger and the obstruction worsens, you may develop symptoms, including:  

If your polyps block most of your nasal passage, you may experience symptoms such as:

These symptoms are caused by reduced oxygen flow to the brain and sinusitis risk.

Sinusitis usually is triggered by bacteria and viruses. Allergic reactions to airborne fungi (allergic fungal sinusitis) are a rare trigger of nasal infection. Viruses often cause acute sinus infections, and early symptoms, such as nasal congestion and postnasal drip, resolve on their own.

Lingering symptoms for two or more weeks can indicate a bacterial infection. Of note, antibiotic overuse—which can occur when people mistakenly take these drugs for viruses—can increase your risk of future bacterial infections.

Chronic sinusitis may be difficult to differentiate from upper respiratory conditions like allergies and asthma because it has similar symptoms, including a runny nose and a reduced sense of smell. Still, symptoms are usually more severe in sinusitis due to long-term swelling of the mucous membranes.

Chronic or recurrent nasal infections by viruses and bacteria are not the only cause of nasal polyps. The following noninfectious conditions may also trigger nasal polyps:

If you have difficulty breathing or sleeping, experience vision changes, or have developed a worsening of your symptoms, such as more frequent asthma attacks or more severe headaches, contact a healthcare provider.

If left untreated, nasal polyps can potentially cause sleep apnea. In sleep apnea, your breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleep. In rare cases, nasal polyps can lead to meningitis, which is inflammation of the protective lining of the brain and spinal cord.

If you have ever experienced nasal polyps you know that the best treatment is prevention. Living with nasal polyps can be miserable, especially if you are experiencing chronic and severe symptoms like trouble breathing, insomnia, and headache.

The following strategies either kill germs or keep the airways moist and hydrated, thereby preventing sinusitis:

If these prevention and home treatments are unsuccessful, you may need to consult a healthcare provider. A provider can perform a detailed evaluation of your symptoms and suggest treatments that are right for you.

Medical and surgical treatments include: 

Chronic sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses) can lead to nasal polyps, which are noncancerous growths in the nasal passages or sinuses. In turn, nasal polyps can lead to further sinus infections. They can cause symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, headache, facial pain, and decreased smell or taste.

Nasal polyps are treated with nasal steroids and sometimes surgery. Lifestyle measures to avoid germs and keep airways moisturized may help prevent sinus inflammation.

Nasal polyps may not be life-threatening, but they can affect your quality of life. In the early stages, your polyps may cause mild symptoms, which can be easy to ignore and may even remit on their own. But over time, if your symptoms worsen, check with a healthcare provider.

Nasal polyps are highly treatable with a range of home and drug therapies. Once they go away, avoid infectious triggers and irritants to prevent nasal polyp regrowth. 

Sinusitis that can lead to nasal polyps is often caused by viruses and bacteria. Fungal infections are a less common cause of sinusitis.

Sinusitis and nasal polyps are not the same. Nasal polyps are growths that occur as a result of chronic irritation to the nasal sinuses. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the air spaces around your nose and eyes. It is one of the most common causes of nasal polyps.

If left untreated nasal polyps can grow in size and eventually block the nasal airway, making it difficult to breathe. Nasal polyps may also cause sleep apnea (an independent risk factor for heart disease) and, in rare cases, meningitis (inflammation of the protective lining of the brain and spinal cord).

Flonase—a topical nasal steroid spray—has been shown to reduce nasal polyps, and prevent regrowth after surgery.

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By Shamard Charles, MD, MPH Shamard Charles, MD, MPH is a public health physician and journalist. He has held positions with major news networks like NBC reporting on health policy, public health initiatives, diversity in medicine, and new developments in health care research and medical treatments.

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