What Causes Nasal Polyps? A Doctor Explains

Polyps are the result of long-term irritation in the nasal cavity.

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Nasal polyps are benign (non-cancerous) growths in the nasal or sinus cavities. While they’re generally harmless, they can have a serious impact on quality of life. Researchers are still trying to pinpoint the exact causes of nasal polyps, but they have identified several risk factors that make polyps more likely to develop.

Chronic Rhinosinusitis

Nasal polyps are more common among people with chronic rhinosinusitis. This is a group of conditions that are associated with long-term irritation or inflammation in the nasal or sinus cavities. As a result, many of the causes of nasal polyps are things that cause chronic inflammation in these areas, such as:

  • Allergies
  • Infections (viral, bacterial, or fungal)
  • Asthma

For example, if you have an allergy to pet dander, your respiratory system would become inflamed and your nose would run. If this happens frequently, this inflammation in the nasal cavity could create an environment where nasal polyps may develop.

Other Medical Causes of Nasal Polyps

There are a handful of medical conditions that appear to increase the risk of nasal polyps, including:

  • Cystic fibrosis: Around 86 percent of people with cystic fibrosis also have nasal polyps, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
  • Aspirin sensitivity: About 10 percent of people with chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps have aspirin sensitivity. When exposed to aspirin, nasal symptoms and breathing difficulties may worsen.

Can You Prevent Nasal Polyps?

There’s no guaranteed way to prevent nasal polyps. However, you may be able to reduce your chances through good management of health conditions related to nasal polyps. For example, following your doctor’s prescribed treatment regimen for allergies or asthma may keep inflammation under control, which in turn may reduce the risk of nasal polyps.

For help treating nasal polyps or the conditions associated with nasal polyps, talk to your doctor. They can help you find the treatment that works for you.