Before going ahead with nasal polyp removal, there may be other things you can try first, depending on your condition.
Many people try non-surgical treatments for their nasal polyps and get relief without the need for surgery.
Nasal polyps are often made worse by asthma, allergies, certain foods and other environmental irritants. By managing your asthma and reducing your exposure to irritants, your symptoms may improve enough for you to manage without surgery.
Reducing the amount of inflammation in your nose and sinuses can help reduce the size of polyps and the problems they cause. About 80% of people with nasal polyps get good results from using steroid medications, either as a nasal spray or orally.
Sometimes nasal polyps are related to an underlying disease such as cystic fibrosis. If your doctor has identified an underlying condition behind your polyps, then steroid treatment may not be effective and it may be better to have surgery sooner rather than later.
If you have nasal polyps, surgery is an effective solution, however the polyps may come back and you’re likely to need long-term medical treatment after your surgery.
Steroid nasal sprays are a long-term solution to nasal inflammation, and can help to shrink some polyps, improve nasal breathing and relieve a runny nose. You need to use them on a regular basis to reduce inflammation in your nose. They can cause side effects including dryness, burning, stinging, sore throat and, occasionally, nose bleeds. If you have other health conditions, you should talk to your doctor before taking nasal steroids. Your pharmacist can recommend a steroid nasal spray.
Your doctor can prescribe steroid tablets to reduce the size of the polyps. They’re usually only used in the short-term (1 to 3 weeks) as longer term use is more likely to cause side effects.
Rinsing out the inside of your nose with salt water can help relieve obstruction. It can also boost the effectiveness of the tiny hairs (cilia) that line the inside of your nose and help to clear mucus. Adding salt and bicarbonate of soda will feel more comfortable than plain water. Commercially available nose and sinus rinses (in squeezy bottles) can be found at any pharmacy.
You can get a nasal irrigation device called a neti pot from some pharmacies. It’s important to keep the device clean to reduce the risk of introducing infection. Also, you must use a safe source of water. Tap water should ideally be boiled and cooled.
You can also buy saline nasal sprays at the pharmacy. They’re a good choice for children with nasal congestion.
If your polyps are associated with sensitivity to aspirin, you may benefit from aspirin desensitisation therapy.
Monoclonal antibody therapy
Scientists are experimenting with some new treatments, including monoclonal antibody drugs that may be effective in treating nasal polyps. They are drugs that work by blocking part of the immune system. Some of these are currently used in severe asthma but their effectiveness in preventing nasal polyps is still being investigated.
Monoclonal antibody therapies aren’t currently covered by Medicare or private health insurance for nasal polyp treatment.
Antibiotics for chronic sinusitis
If your polyps are being made worse by chronic sinusitis, your doctor may recommend antibiotic treatment. Chronic sinusitis can be difficult to cure with antibiotics. They don’t always work because many of the bacteria that cause chronic sinusitis are resistant to commonly used antibiotics.
Also, it can be difficult to get the antibiotic to penetrate to the site of the infection which can be inside the bones of your sinuses. You may need a test to work out which antibiotic is most likely to be effective and may need to take it for several months before the infection clears.
If you have nasal polyps, avoiding irritants that cause nasal inflammation may help you avoid or delay surgery. Many things can cause nasal inflammation or make it worse. An allergic reaction to pollen, dust mites or animals may cause additional nasal symptoms known as allergic rhinitis, which can be treated with antihistamines.
Irritation from smoke, paint fumes, household chemicals or perfumes can also cause nasal inflammation. Some people experience nasal congestion in response to certain foods and drinks such as red wine, milk or beer.