They may need to rule out some other conditions first.
In some ways, the way doctors diagnose nasal polyps is fairly simple. A quick look into the nostrils can reveal a lot. That said, your doctor may need to do a little more investigating to rule out other potential diagnoses, or to get a better idea of what’s causing your nasal polyps.
Tracking Your Symptoms
If you believe you are having symptoms of nasal polyps, be sure to note what symptoms you are having and whether they are sporadic or constant. Common symptoms include:
- Feeling like your nose is “blocked”
- Runny nose
- Loss of smell and/or taste
- Facial pressure
Being familiar with your symptoms can help you describe your experience better to your doctor. This can help them in making a diagnosis and treatment recommendation.
A Physical Examination to Diagnose Nasal Polyps
Hearing your symptoms can be enough to diagnose nasal polyps, but your doctor still needs to examine inside your nose. That’s because symptoms of nasal polyps can mimic other similar conditions, such as allergies or a sinus infection.
Looking inside the nose, your doctor will be able to recognize nasal polyps pretty quickly. Nasal polyps tissue is different from the rest of your nose tissue. Inside a healthy nose, you’ll see a shiny and light pink lining, called a mucosa. Nasal polyps, on the other hand, often look like white balloons.
Most of the time, your doctor will see polyps on both sides of the nasal cavity. When nasal polyps are unilateral or one-sided, this may be a cause for concern. This could potentially be cancerous, so your doctor may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist for a biopsy. Just remember, the vast majority of nasal polyps are on both sides of the nose and are benign (non-cancerous).
If your doctor diagnoses you with nasal polyps, the next step is treatment. This can look different from person to person, depending on the:
- Size of the nasal polyps
- Severity of symptoms
- Underlying cause of the nasal polyps
Treatment for nasal polyps may include:
- Antihistamines to treat underlying allergies
- Antibiotics to treat underlying bacterial infections
- Steroid nasal sprays
- Oral steroids
- Surgical removal (for very large polyps)
While nasal polyps can be bothersome and uncomfortable, it’s important to remember that they are manageable and relatively harmless. Sticking with your prescribed treatment regimen and having a good relationship with your doctor may reduce symptoms and help you live a relatively normal life.
- Nasal obstruction: diagnosis and management. Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on December 15, 2020)
- Nasal polyps. Milwaukee, WI: American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. (Accessed on December 15, 2020)
- Nasal polyps. Washington, DC: MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on December 15, 2020)