Although you may have never heard of them, nasal polyps are actually quite common affecting an estimated 4- to 40-percent of adults. Nasal polyps are 2-4 times more common in males than females. Nasal polyps are non-cancerous growths that occur in the nose or sinuses. Often associated with allergies or asthma in some cases they cause no issues however, nasal polyps symptoms can be irritating and can closely resemble that of allergies.
Luckily they are easily treated with a corticosteroid or in severe cases a short, outpatient surgery. Here’s how you can differentiate between allergies and nasal polyps:
1. Stuffy nose
A symptom of both nasal polyps and allergies, a quick trip to your doctor will quickly prove which is to blame. While allergies cause a stuffy nose to the swelling of the tissue in your sinuses nasal polyps can cause a stuffy nose if they are particularly large and are blocking your nasal passages. Some nasal polyps can be seen simply by looking up your nostrils with a light in some extreme cases nasal polyps have even protruded from the nostrils. If your doctor is unable to see any polyps with the light he or she will likely want to perform a closer examination. Using numbing spray and an endoscope your physician will be able to see if there are any polyps deeper in your nasal passages or sinuses. If you suspect you may have nasal polyps you can try to take over-the-counter allergy medication before seeing your doctor. If your stuffy nose does not improve with the use of over-the-counter allergy medication you may be suffering from nasal polyps and should make an appointment with your physician.
2. Runny nose
Another common symptom of nasal polyps and allergies is a runny nose however the cause is different for each. With nasal polyps a runny nose can be credited to the blockage in your sinuses preventing proper drainage thus the mucus leaves your body via your nostrils instead of draining into your throat. Allergies cause a runny nose because when you come into contact with an allergen your body produces histamine, which is meant to defend your body from the allergen. Histamine causes a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and sneezing. If your runny is caused by allergies it should improve once you take an antihistamine such as Benadryl.
3. Chronic rhinosinusitis
Chronic rhinosinusitis is an inflammatory disease occurring in 1 to 5 percent of the American population and is also referred to as chronic sinusitis or sinus infections. In order to be diagnosed with chronic rhinosinusitis you must present at least two of the following four symptoms; facial pain and pressure, hyposmia/anosmia, nasal drainage, and nasal obstruction. This disease is often associated with nasal polyps symptoms because the polyps grow large and block the sinuses. When the sinuses are blocked they cannot drain properly and thus the mucus sits allowing infection to grow. While prescribed antibiotics will rid your body the infection they have no effect on nasal polyps thus the issue will return.