Nasal polyps treatment: At-home and surgical options
Nasal polyps are lumps of tissue that grow in your nose. While the polyps themselves are generally harmless, they can cause pain and discomfort – common nasal polyp symptoms include congestion, headaches and drainage.
So, what should you do about these growths? (Hint: you shouldn’t try to remove nasal polyps yourself). Read on to learn how to treat your nasal polyps at home and when to see a doctor.
How do I get rid of nasal polyps?
First of all, you may not need to treat your nasal polyps. If your nasal polyps aren’t causing symptoms, you don’t need to treat them. It’s possible for nasal polyps to shrink naturally and go away on their own.
And secondly, you shouldn’t try to remove nasal polyps yourself since that could cause injury and possibly infection. But the good news is that, if you’re bothered by nasal polyp symptoms, there are things you can do at home to make yourself more comfortable by shrinking your polyps or getting rid of them altogether. And if at-home treatments don’t work for you, injectable medications and surgery may be options.
Home treatments to reduce nasal polyp symptoms
Polyps are primarily caused by inflammation inside your nose. Controlling inflammation can help prevent nasal polyps and keep them from getting worse. And when your nasal passages aren’t swollen and irritated, you’ll feel better too. Here are things you can do at home to keep your nasal passages from flaring up:
Use a portable humidifier
Moist air from a humidifier can calm irritated nasal passages. Aim for humidity levels between 30-50%. For best results, clean the humidifier regularly and only use distilled water.
Rinse your nasal passages
You can use a neti pot or a bulb syringe to irrigate your nasal passages with a saltwater solution. By pushing the saline rinse through your nose, you’ll moisten your nasal passages, and remove mucus and allergens that may be causing irritation and inflammation. You can find neti pots and saline solutions at the pharmacy or online.
Treat other respiratory conditions
People who have allergies or asthma are more likely to have nasal polyps. By managing symptoms from allergies and asthma, you can lessen the inflammation that causes polyps or makes them worse. If your symptoms aren’t under control, talk to your primary care doctor or allergist.
Try to avoid nasal irritants
Irritants like tobacco smoke, chemical fumes and dust can cause or worsen nasal polyps, so try to avoid them as much as possible. If you’re struggling to quit smoking, your doctor can help.
Take steps to protect yourself from illness
Bacteria and viruses can cause inflammation in the nasal passages. So, don’t forget to wash your hands, eat a healthy diet, and get your flu shot and COVID-19 booster or vaccine.
Medications to shrink nasal polyps
If at-home options aren’t providing relief from your symptoms, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. If necessary, they’ll refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor for other treatments such as injectable medications.
There are various medications that can help reduce the size of polyps or completely eliminate them. Common medications for nasal polyps include:
Corticosteroid nasal sprays are commonly used to reduce swelling and irritation in the nasal passages from allergies. But nasal sprays can also help shrink polyps or completely get rid of them. Popular over-the-counter options include Flonase, Rinocort and Nasacort. Nasal sprays are generally safe, but it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking any new medication.
If a nasal spray doesn’t work, your doctor may prescribe an oral corticosteroid for your nasal polyps. But these medications can have side effects. So if you take them, it will only be for a short amount of time.
If nasal polyps are severe, another option is an injection of corticosteroid medication into nasal polyps to reduce inflammation.
Biologics for nasal polyps
If you have both nasal polyps and chronic sinusitis, your doctor may recommend an injectable medicine called dupilumab to shrink your polyps and reduce congestion. This medication changes how your immune system responds to the inflammation.
Surgery to remove nasal polyps
If medications don’t work, it may be time to talk to an ENT doctor about a nasal polypectomy, a sinus surgery to remove nasal polyps.
The procedure usually takes a few hours and can be general or local anesthesia, depending on your preferences and needs.
Most people can go home on the same day as surgery, but some people need to stay overnight. If you’re able to go home, you’ll need someone to drive you, so it’s good to make transportation arrangements in advance.
How are nasal polyps removed?
The procedure depends a little on the size and location of your nasal polyps.
If you have large polyps toward the front of your nose, your doctor may use a microdebrider, an instrument that’s inserted in your nostril to remove tissue and take it out with suction. Your doctor may also remove the polyps with small graspers.
If your nasal polyps are deeper in the nasal cavity or could be more difficult to remove, your doctor may recommend functional endoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive procedure that doesn’t require any incisions in your skin.
During the surgery, your doctor will use an endoscope which is a long, thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end. The endoscope goes through your nostril and into your nasal cavities.
Using the camera, your doctor will find your nasal polyps and then use small instruments to remove them. Your doctor may also make changes to the structure of your sinuses so you’re less likely to get nasal polyps.
What to expect after having nasal polyps removed
Even though the procedure to remove nasal polyps is pretty minor, the healing process still takes time. To make sure that you’re healing appropriately, your ENT doctor will meet with you a few times in the weeks after your procedure.
Your doctor will give you specific care instructions, but you can expect the following as you recover:
- You should be able to return to work in a week or less – some people are able to go back within a couple of days.
- Your nose will be sore, and you will likely have blood and other fluids draining from it for up to a week.
- Your doctor will recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications to help manage the pain. Take only what’s recommended as some medicines may cause problems. For example, taking aspirin could delay healing since it keeps blood from clotting.
- You may feel like you have a bad cold for a few days. But you won’t be able to blow your nose for at least a week – blowing your nose can affect the healing process. Instead, you’ll need to use saline sprays to loosen the dried mucus collecting inside your nose.
- You’ll need to avoid certain behaviors that could make your nose bleed, including hot baths, long showers, steamy beverages, strenuous exercise and bending over.
- You should avoid smoking and drinking alcohol since they make it harder to heal.
Can I prevent nasal polyps from returning after surgery?
Nasal polyps sometimes come back and there’s no way to guarantee your nose will remain growth-free forever. However, taking steps to reduce inflammation in your nasal passages can lower your chances of uncomfortable nasal polyps.
So, continue to use corticosteroid nasal spray, saline rinses and a humidifier. It also helps to keep allergy and asthma symptoms under control, quit smoking and limit how much alcohol you drink.
Nasal polyp treatment that’s on the nose
Home remedies are often enough to keep nasal polyp symptoms under control. But if at-home treatments aren’t working, make an appointment with your primary care doctor to talk about other options, including medications.
You can also make an appointment with an ENT doctor to learn more about injectable medications or nasal polyp surgery – no referral is needed.