The common cold, as the name suggests, is a very common condition affecting the upper respiratory tract system. The symptoms are often mild, not warranting any medical interventions. But not seeking medical attention, when symptoms last for an extended period of time, is not recommended since this could be occurring from some underlying abnormalities that require immediate medical help.
Having persistent cold-like symptoms can be very frustrating, and this could be appearing from abnormal growths in the nasal passages or sinuses, known as nasal polyps.
What are Nasal Polyps?
A polyp is an abnormal tissue growth that protrudes from the mucous membrane. It can occur anywhere in the body where mucous membranes are present, like the colon, uterus, urinary bladder, and even the nasal and sinus passages.
This type of tissue overgrowth happening in the mucous membranes lining the nasal cavity and sinuses is termed as nasal polyps. The sinuses are narrow, hollow, air cavities situated within the skull which communicates with the nostrils. When the lining of these cavities become inflamed, they are inclined to swell up, occupying most of the available space, and then protrude into the nasal cavity, bringing forth a whole lot of related problems.
Nasal polyps can be of various sizes, but almost always are shaped like a droplet. They vary in color too, could be gray, yellow, or flesh colored. They can occur as a single small mass or present themselves in clusters, often attached to the mucous membrane by a narrow, fleshy stalk.
Nasal polyps are benign growths and they are in no way connected to the type of polyps occurring elsewhere in the body. Individuals affected by this condition will almost always notice growths in both their nostrils (bilateral), but cases of only one nostril having these growths are also not rare. However, when the growth of nasal polyps is only unilateral, chances for them to be malignant will remain high.
Symptoms – associated with nasal polyps are as follows –
– Nose block, this feeling remaining for a relatively long time, in turn causing,
Reduced sense of smell as well as taste
Snoring or respiratory difficulties while asleep, interfering with the person’s normal sleep patterns
Speech with a nasal resonance
– Trapped mucus within eventually can become infected, causing body temperatures to increase and bringing forth pain symptoms
– Postnasal drip or a runny nose
– Frequent headaches
If polyps are left untreated for an extended period of time, they can grow much larger and bring about changes in the structure of the nose, as well as cause facial pain.
Nasal Polyps Causes
The exact cause behind the formation of nasal polyps is yet to be understood well. However, almost all individuals suffering from this condition have been noted to have an inflamed mucous membrane that has been in existence for a longer period of time. Hence, certain disease conditions bringing about this mucosal inflammation may be triggering the growth of nasal polyps, like asthma or cystic fibrosis; but individuals without any of these conditions have also been diagnosed with nasal polyps. It is also believed that aspirin intolerance gives rise to nasal polyp formation.
Diagnosing Nasal Polyps
Polyps growing closer to the nasal opening are easy to detect. Those located further inside the nasal passages and sinuses will require image testings to be done.
A computerized tomography scan of the nasal and sinus cavities is performed. This will provide interior images of the passages, and will clearly define the bulges occurring in the walls of the nose and sinuses.
Medical Treatment for Nasal Polyps
Conservative methods of treating nasal polyps involve the use of steroid creams, nose drops, nasal sprays, or corticosteroid tablets to shrink the polyps. Topical steroid use should be carried out for at least a month or 6 weeks to see any improvement in the condition. However, some of them will notice a reduction in the growth of their nasal polyps, while some others may not; since the affect of steroid use will depend on the size of the polyps. The larger polyps will require a brief course of steroid tablets along with the use of nasal sprays to effectively eliminate them. Steroid tablets are never prescribed for a long-term use, because of the severe complications they can bring about.
Generally, though, the large sized polyps will need more aggressive treatment methods, like a surgical intervention.
Surgical Removal of Nasal Polyps
There are two surgical methods by which nasal polyps can be removed – the polypectomy method which is a more traditional way; and the other, is an endoscopic surgery. Both surgeries will be done by a surgeon specializing in ear, nose, and throat problems.
1) Polypectomy – While employing this method, a local anesthetic is given to numb the intranasal areas. A wire snare is looped around the polyp, the snare is then tightened and electricity passed through the wire to coagulate the blood and cut the polyp. The polyp is then removed using a small surgical forceps. General anesthesia may be given, if there are a significant number of polyps that needs to be removed.
2) Endoscopic Sinus Surgery – In this method, first an endoscope is passed to obtain better visualization of the polyps. Then, more modern and powdered intranasal instruments are used to eliminate the polyps in a less traumatic manner. Again, this is performed under a general anesthetic.
3) Laser Surgery – This technique is used in more recent times and will prevent the re-growth of nasal polyps. The technique increases the ability to remove the polyp in its entirety, without leaving any diseased tissues behind which can grow back. Here, low-to-moderate energy laser beams are used to coagulate the polyps, the energy levels gradually being increased, until the desired effect is achieved. Along with controlled laser energy delivery, warm water is utilized to provide a more natural vasoconstriction effect. The water will also wash out the sinuses, giving better visualization of the interiors. The laser beam will be focused on the polyps for about 5 to 7 seconds at a time until they become coagulated, and are then suctioned out using a suction curettage.
After undergoing either of the above procedures, a surgical dressing is packed inside the nose to stop any bleeding. Once the anesthetic effect wears off, and if no complications from the procedure are noted, the person is allowed to go home the same day. It is vital that the patient is made aware about the importance of follow-up following the surgical procedures to prevent polyp recurrences. Long term medical treatment plan will also be put in place to control inflammation of the nasal mucosa, failure of which will lead to detection of nasal polyps again.
Nasal polyps are inclined to recur and having to undergo a surgery every time they appear can be quite a frustrating experience. Instead, there are certain things one could do to help shrink the polyps more naturally.
Natural Treatment for Nasal Polyps
Certain methods could be followed by the sufferer within the comforts of their home to help in better management of nasal polyps, in a natural way.
– Frequent nasal irrigations may be done to keep the sinuses as clear as possible, to allow more free breathing. Prepare a saline solution by combining one-fourth teaspoon of salt, one-fourth teaspoon baking soda in a cup of warm water. Then, using a bulb syringe, or a jet irrigator, pass the solution through one nostril with the head tilted sideways, allowing the fluid to pass through the entire length of the sinuses and exit out through the other nostril. When done regularly, it will help in proper maintenance of the mucous membranes, lining the nasal passages and sinuses.
– Steam inhalation done at periodic intervals will keep the nasal passages well dilated, enabling the sufferer to breathe easily. Inhale steam from a wide bowl of hot boiling water to which a few drops of eucalyptus oil is added. Continue inhaling for approximately five to ten minutes to enjoy its benefits.
– Do some deep breathing exercises to reduce any discomforts that usually accompany nasal polyp growths. Close one nostril and deep breathe through the other, then change the side, following this pattern by turns to lessen the severity of symptoms.
– Living in cold climatic conditions will dry out the nasal passages, triggering more mucus production to moisten the membranes, which will only add to the nasal congestion already in existence. Install a room humidifier to prevent this from happening.
– Likewise, drinking plenty of fluids to keep the body well hydrated will also be beneficial. Hot clear fluids like herbal teas, soups, or even warm water with a pinch of salt added to it will keep the sinuses decongested.
– Having a hot bath or steam shower will also aid in alleviating nasal congestion.
– Anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, garlic, ginger, cabbage, turnips, berries, etc., should be consumed regularly to keep the inflammation of the mucosal linings down. Also increasing omega-3 fatty acids will decrease systemic inflammatory conditions, and these are plenty in seafood, flaxseeds, walnuts, almonds, and cashews.
If these abnormal nose growths are a result of asthma attacks or cystic fibrosis, follow prescribed treatment methods to keep these conditions under good control for a better nasal polyp management.