Nasal polyps

Nasal polyps are painless soft growths inside your nose. They're not usually serious, but they can keep growing and block your nose if not treated. You should see your GP if you have any difficulty breathing or you have symptoms of polyps that are persistent or getting worse.

Symptoms of nasal polyps

Symptoms of nasal polyps include:

  • blocked nose
  • runny nose
  • constant need to swallow (post-nasal drip)
  • reduced sense of smell or taste
  • nosebleeds
  • snoring

Nasal polyps can sometimes feel like a cold, but colds tend to clear up within a few days, while nasal polyps won't get better unless they're treated.

If your polyps block your sinuses (air pockets around your nose), you may also have symptoms of sinusitis.

When to see your GP

You should see your GP if:

  • you're worried you may have nasal polyps
  • you have difficulty breathing
  • your symptoms are getting worse
  • you notice changes to your sense of smell

Treatment for nasal polyps

A GP should be able to tell if you have nasal polyps by looking inside your nose.

If you have nasal polyps, you'll usually be given steroid nose drops or a spray to shrink the polyps.

You may be given steroid tablets, usually for up to two weeks, if:

  • your polyps are large
  • nose drops and sprays didn't work

After seeing your GP, a pharmacist can recommend:

  • steroid nasal sprays that don't need a GP prescription
  • salt water washes – called a saline rinse or nasal douche – to help unblock your nose


Surgery to remove polyps

If there's no sign of improvement after about 10 weeks, your GP may suggest surgery to remove your polyps.

Most people who have surgery see an improvement, but it's common for polyps to grow back, usually within a few years.

You may need to keep using a steroid nasal spray after surgery to stop the polyps returning quickly.

Cause of nasal polyps

It's not clear what causes nasal polyps.

Certain things can increase your risk of nasal polyps, like:

  • asthma
  • a bad reaction to taking aspirin

Nasal polyps are rare in children.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

This page was published May 2018

This page is due for review December 2020

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