Sunday, February 18, 2018

Is It A Cold? Or Is It Nasal Polyps?

Some health problems can really get up your nose. In these first few months of the year when (unless you’re lucky enough to live in Australia) the weather is at its coldest and most forbidding, it’s not uncommon for those quotidian infections to do the rounds. Thus, workplaces are aflood with runny noses, reddened and swollen eyes, coughs and sneezes and a general malaise. In this sort of climate, it’s quite common for us to feel those common cold and flu symptoms such as sore throats, blocked noses, headaches, muscle pains and fevers. Very often we just shrug these off as cold symptoms. But when cold symptoms come back time and again it could be a sign of something more serious. If you feel you’re affected by colds more often than usual this year, have your doctor check for signs of nasal polyps.

Image by PxHere
What are nasal polyps?

Nasal polyps are small, non-cancerous growths inside the sinuses and nasal passages. They are soft and painless and thus, hard to notice. They can affect anyone but they usually affect adults although there are certain causal factors such as repeated nasal/sinus infection. They can exist for years without causing any symptoms, although if they are beginning to bunch together they can begin to cause problems. 

How do I know if I have them?

Most of the time we accumulate nasal polyps without any ill effect. Since they are small and lack sensation they’re often unnoticeable. Over time, however,  nasal polyps can build up into groups or you can form particularly large polyps. These cause symptoms akin to a nasty cold that just refuses to shift. As your doctor to check for nasal polyps if you have the following symptoms for 10 days or more:
  • Persistent stuffy /runny nose
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Loss of sense of taste
  • Headaches and facial pain 
  • Pain in upper teeth
  • Feeling of pressure on the forehead and face
  • Increased snoring

Do I need surgery?

Not necessarily. Despite any sinus surgery myths you may have heard, sinus surgery won’t affect the appearance of your nose or give you black eyes like a raccoon. Nonetheless, surgery is rarely the first course of treatment. Often your doctor will try and use medication to shrink or even eliminate nasal polyps, but there are some scenarios in which surgery may be necessary. If your polyps are blocking the sinus drainage ducts then surgery is a viable option. It’s worth noting that even when removed nasal polyps can return and there are lifestyle and dietary measures that one can take to avoid this from happening that your doctor may recommend depending on the size or number of your polyps. 

Can nasal polyps have serious consequences?

Although non-cancerous, nasal polyps can interrupt the normal flow of air and drainage of fluid through the sinuses and as such can lead to potentially serious consequences. Left untreated they can result in sinus infections as well as aggravating asthma. They can even cause sleep apnea which can interrupt your breathing while you sleep. Fortunately, these are unlikely to occur if effective treatment is sought quickly. 


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