Nasal polyps and headaches

What You Should Know About Nasal Polyps

When your nose just runs and runs, staying congested for weeks at a time, you’re probably dealing with a more serious nasal condition than the common cold.

In fact, there may be something growing in your nose that’s causing all those nasal symptoms. Nasal polyps, which are benign tumors (meaning non-cancerous), can sprout inside your nasal passages and cause big problems with your breathing.

What Are Nasal Polyps?

These benign tumors are small sacs that can appear inside the nose or the sinuses. They’re made up of inflamed tissues, and can grow to be large enough to cause blockages in your airways.

Nasal polyps are a side effect of some other health condition — most often allergies or an infection from a virus or bacteria. These benign tumors are more common in people who have:

  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Asthma
  • A wheezing reaction to aspirin
  • Chronic sinusitis (frequent sinus infections)
  • Cystic fibrosis

Any health problem that leads to persistent inflammation of the sinuses or inside the nose can increase the risk of developing nasal polyps. Another risk factor is age — they most often strike after 40.

Are Nasal Polyps Serious?

Nasal polyps aren’t a serious condition — but that doesn’t mean that the discomfort and symptoms they cause aren’t significant enough to warrant treatment. Nasal polyps should be treated to relieve persistent symptoms and difficulty breathing, and the frequent sinus infections that can occur if your sinuses and nasal passages are blocked by nasal polyps. And any accompanying infection should also be treated.

Symptoms of Nasal Polyps: Comparable to a Cold

Nasal polyps can cause cold-like symptoms — but it’s a cold you just can’t seem to shake. Common symptoms of nasal polyps include:

  • Pressure in the sinuses
  • A frequently runny nose
  • Reduced senses of taste and smell
  • Persistent headaches (if there is also a sinus infection)
  • Snoring
  • Persistent sinus infections
  • Chronic congestion (stuffiness) in the nose
  • Inability to breathe through the nose, resulting in mouth breathing

Dealing With Nasal Polyps

There are several treatment options to consider for nasal polyps, including:

  • Nasal sprays containing corticosteroids to reduce tissue inflammation and shrink nasal polyps
  • Oral corticosteroid medications
  • Surgery to remove nasal polyps if they are too large to be managed with corticosteroids
  • Antibiotics to treat an accompanying bacterial sinus infection (antibiotics are not prescribed unless there is also a bacterial infection)

Unfortunately, a one-time treatment typically isn’t all that’s required. Nasal polyps often return, whether you take corticosteroids or have surgery to remove them.

Can Nasal Polyps Be Prevented?

You can’t really prevent nasal polyps, but there are things that you can do to help reduce their recurrence — especially if you’re prone to them. Getting regular allergy shots, as well as taking antihistamine drugs and using nasal sprays preventively, can help keep inflammation at bay and reduce the risk that nasal polyps will form.

If your cold or allergy symptoms drag on and on without relief or an end in sight, nasal polyps may be to blame for your persistent nasal condition. Don’t suffer with your sickness; instead, head to your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment — and finally, you can start to feel better.

Find more information in the Everyday Health Ear, Nose, and Throat Center.

Can Sinus Pressure Cause Migraines?

Sinus headaches and migraines are often commonly confused, but it’s important to know which type of headache you have since that affects the type of treatment you need.

In this blog, Dr. Cecil Yeung of Houston Sinus Surgery at the Yeung Institute explains more about sinus headaches and migraines, including whether sinus pressure can cause migraines.

What is a sinus headache?

A sinus headache is characterized by pain and pressure in the head – especially the forehead – and behind the cheekbones. Your head may hurt when you move or bend over, and your eyes may water and itch.

What causes a sinus headache?

A sinus headache is usually caused by infection and inflammation of the sinuses, which is known as rhinosinusitis. As your nasal passages become swollen, they become blocked with mucus and the area becomes congested, resulting in sinus pressure. This leads to a sinus headache.

Since its cause is rooted in sinus issues, a sinus headache is often treated with decongestants and nasal irrigation to help clear out the congested area and ease the pressure. Nasal steroids can also be used, and, if the underlying infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics may also be prescribed.

If sinusitis (sinus infections) are chronic – defined as lasting more than 12 weeks despite attempts at treatment – surgery may be recommended in some cases if there’s an underlying cause that can be surgically corrected.

For example, if a deviated septum (a crooked or off-center wall that separates your nasal passages) is causing congestion that’s a breeding ground for infection, surgery can be used to correct this. And by correcting the issue that’s causing the inflammation, sinus headaches will also be helped.

Can sinus pressure cause a migraine?

Sinus headaches and migraines have many symptoms in common, but they’re not the same type of headache. Once the underlying sinus issue is resolved, sinus headaches should go away. But with migraines, ongoing medication may be needed to help prevent them from recurring.

Sinus pressure may be somewhat linked to migraines, however. If you have allergic rhinitis, your nasal passages can become inflamed and irritated in response to an allergen. It’s thought that the histamine release that occurs as part of the allergic reaction can cause migraines. In fact, people who have allergic rhinitis are more than 10 times more likely to suffer from migraines.

What are the symptoms of sinus headaches and migraines?

Sinus headaches and migraines have the following symptoms in common:

  • Pain in the head – especially the forehead
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Worsening pain when you move

Migraines tend to also have some of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Severe pain located on one size of the head

Sinus headaches and migraines are often confused, and it’s important to know which type you have so you can receive treatment that’s more likely to help.

If you’re experiencing headaches, make an appointment today for an evaluation at Houston Sinus Surgery at the Yeung Institute. We’ll correctly diagnose the type of headache you have – as well as any underlying issues that are causing them – and devise an effective treatment plan.

Sinonasal Tumors / Polyps / Masses

Insight into treating a runny nose

Sinonasal Tumors/Polyps/Masses

Nasal polyps are pink, watery-appearing growths that occur within the nose and sinuses. They look like blisters of the tissue and when removed may look like small grapes. Polyps are sometimes seen in conjunction with allergies or sinusitis. They range in size from very small swellings that do not cause much trouble and sit on the outer ways of the sinuses. Other polyps may grow in key drainage points and even though small can lead to critical blockage. Larger polyps can completely fill the nasal cavity and be visible from the nostrils.

Sinus and nasal polyps are not like polyps in other parts of the body, such as the colon (large intestine). They are almost always benign and not a precursor to cancer. However, there are growths in the sinuses and nose that may look like polyps but can be precancerous or very rarely actually contain cancer. These masses are often on one side of the nasal cavity only, while most true benign nasal polyps are present in both sides. Polyps present in one nasal cavity but not on the other, should be biopsied or removed if they are suspicious.

A wart-like growth that looks similar to a polyp is called an inverted papilloma. These are most often benign, but do not respond to medications like steroids as being nasal polyps do. About 10% of inverted papillomas may be associated with sinus cancer.

What causes nasal polyps?

The exact cause of benign nasal polyps is unknown at this time. There are multiple factors that may contribute to the growth of nasal polyps. They often represent the final result of chronic inflammation. Allergies may contribute to their growth by causing chronic inflammation of the tissues. Patients with fungal sinus infections often have severe allergic reactions to the fungus and their sinuses may have the most extensive polyps.

Patients with asthma, which causes problems with the linings of the breathing passageways, are known to have a higher probability of having nasal polyps also. A hereditary component or cause for polyps may also be suspected in some patients. As an example, some cystic fibrosis patients have nasal polyps. In general, nasal polyps seem to occur more frequently in those with affected family members.

What are the symptoms for sinusitis?

Major symptoms of a sinus infection include facial pain or pressure. Sinus pain and pressure is caused by pressure on the nerves of the sinuses by the swollen and irritated tissues. If polyps or fungus are involved there is often less pressure and pain compared with acute bacterial infections. Negative pressure vacuum of the sinuses can be caused by blockage of the sinus ostia and this can also result in the symptom of pain and pressure.

Other major symptoms that may be noted are nasal stuffiness or fullness and pus draining from the front of the nose or down the throat. Many will also notice difficulty with the ability to smell and even changes in their taste. Swollen nasal tissues and increased or thickened nasal sections often cause difficulty breathing through the nose. Some patients will also snore due to this blockage. Other factors evaluated in the diagnosis of sinusitis include headache and bad breath, fatigue, cough, dental pain and in the case of acute infections, fever. The bad breath is due to the presence of bacteria in the thick mucus that may drain into the throat from the back of the nose during sinusitis.

How do I tell the difference between a cold and sinusitis?

It can be difficult to distinguish between a having a cold and having sinusitis. Colds are caused by common viruses. Your body’s natural defenses can usually fight off these in about a week. However, sinusitis typically has a more protracted course and the symptoms will persist beyond 5 to 7 days. In fact, sinusitis often will follow or complicate a cold it’s like a cold that does not go away. There may also be differences in appearance of the mucus draining from the nose. Many of the over-the-counter treatments available for a cold will also help lessen some of the symptoms of a sinus infection, but if bacteria or fungus are present in infection-level quantities, symptoms will continue and medical attention is needed.

Content courtesy of AAO American Academy of Otolaryngology

Learn more about PolypVac – In Office Polyp Removal

Nasal Polyps

What Is It?

Published: March, 2019

A nasal polyp is a benign (noncancerous) tumor that grows from the lining of the nose or sinuses. These polyps usually occur in both the right and left nasal passages and obstruct the flow of air. They can make your nose feel stuffy, and can decrease your sense of smell. Not all growths in the nose are polyps.

Nasal polyps may result from chronic (long-lasting) inflammation of the lining of the nose, although they often occur for no apparent reason. People with chronic hay fever (allergic rhinitis) are more likely than others to develop nasal polyps. In addition, nasal polyps commonly develop in children with cystic fibrosis.

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Nasal Polyps

What are nasal polyps?

Nasal polyps are benign (non-cancerous) growths that form on the lining of the nasal passages and sinuses (small air-filled cavities located throughout the facial bones.) A polyp develops when the mucus membranes in the nose or sinuses become inflamed and swell over a long period of time. When the polyps grow large enough, they can block the nasal passageways and sinuses and lead to sinus infections and breathing problems.

Who gets nasal polyps?

Anyone who has a condition that triggers inflammation in the nose can get nasal polyps. Some of these conditions are:

  • Asthma
  • An allergy to aspirin or other pain relievers
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Allergic rhinitis (a condition that causes stuffy or runny nose and sneezing)
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Allergic fungal sinusitis (an allergy to an airborne fungi)
  • Other acute (short-term) or chronic infections

The full cause of nasal polyps is not yet known, but it is believed to be brought on by many different factors. Nasal polyps have been associated with allergies, certain genetic (inherited) conditions, and asthma. It is believed that inflammation causes the buildup of fluid within the mucus membranes. This results in the formation of fluid-filled growths, which over time expand to become polyps.

What are the symptoms of nasal polyps?

The symptoms of nasal polyps include the following:

  • Runny nose or stuffy nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Lost or weakened sense of smell and taste
  • Headache
  • Sinus pressure
  • Snoring at night

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Nasal polyps are benign growths that occur on the mucosal lining of the nasal passages. They are typically small and though noncancerous can still cause obstructions of the sinuses, leading to congestion, breathing problems and sinus infections.

Signs & Symptoms of Nasal Polyps

Some nasal polyps are tiny and cause few problems. Others produce symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, sneezing, loss of smell and taste, postnasal drip, headache, sinus pain and pressure and snoring. If symptoms persist longer than ten days and are not associated with a cold or allergies, seek medical attention. Even though nasal polyps are benign, if left untreated they can grow large enough to cause serious complications including obstructive sleep apnea, meningitis, blood clots and aneurysms.

What Causes Nasal Polyps?

Some people develop nasal polyps randomly, but most often there is some sort of triggering mechanism. Common triggers include asthma, hay fever, chronic sinus infections, cystic fibrosis and sensitivity to aspirin and other NSAIDs. Genetics may also play a role.

A diagnosis is usually made through visual inspection with an otoscope or nasal endoscopy. An imaging test, either a CT scan or MRI, can be useful in determining the size of the polyp and in ruling out more serious growths, such as tumors. Allergy tests may be administered in order to identify the substance responsible for your symptoms.

Treatment for Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps can be treated with either medication or surgery. The goal is to reduce the size of the polyp or remove it completely in order to alleviate your symptoms. Nasal sprays, oral or injectable steroids, antihistamines and antibiotics are all common drug treatments. If they are ineffective, surgery may be performed. The type of procedure depends on the size of the polyp. An outpatient procedure called a polypectomy uses a suction device or microdebrider to remove the lesion and surrounding tissue, and is effective for treating smaller polyps. Larger ones may require endoscopic sinus surgery. In this procedure, a camera is mounted on a flexible tube, and tools on the end are used for excising the polyp.

Call ENT Physicians & Surgeons at (603) 669-0831 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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