Why Can Nasal Polyps Make You Dizzy?

Nasal polyps are soft, usually benign growths inside the nasal or sinus passageways caused by chronic inflammation. People with allergies or frequent sinus infections (inflammation of the nasal cavity and sinuses) commonly suffer from nasal polyps. Nasal polyps increase sinus pressure. This can affect the Eustachian tube, which in turn disrupts balance and equilibrium, causing dizziness, or vertigo.

This article discusses dizziness associated with nasal polyps.

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Sinus Pressure

Sinus pressure is best described as pain and a feeling of fullness in the face. Headaches and toothaches are common with sinus pressure.

Inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nasal and sinus passageways can cause sinus pressure, but nasal polyps exacerbate this by taking up space and pressing on important structures in and around the nasal passageways and sinuses. One important structure that may be affected is the auditory tube.

The Auditory Tube

The auditory tube connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. It ventilates the middle ear and allows for the drainage of mucus and debris. If the auditory tube becomes blocked or stops opening and closing properly, it is called auditory tube dysfunction.

Auditory tube dysfunction can create negative pressure in the middle ear, which leads to problems in the vestibular system (the part of the ear that controls balance and equilibrium). When this occurs, you can experience vertigo.

Sinus infections can cause the auditory tube to become blocked due to inflammation and thick mucus secretions. However, if nasal polyps are also present, it's possible that a polyp can actually block or press on the auditory tube and prevent it from functioning properly.

When the auditory tube dysfunction is caused by a sinus infection, it is sometimes referred to as sinusitis vertigo.

What Is Vertigo?

Vertigo is dizziness that can make you feel like the room or world around you is spinning. It often stems from problems with the inner ear. While vertigo and dizziness are very rare symptoms of nasal polyps, they can occur, especially if the auditory tube is affected by polyps.

Allergies and Dizziness

Allergies are the underlying cause of many conditions, including chronic rhinosinusitis, nasal polyps, and auditory tube dysfunction. Any of these conditions can lead to changes in the middle and inner ear and, subsequently, the vestibular system, resulting in allergy-induced vertigo.

If allergies lead to temporary auditory tube dysfunction and cause fluid in the ear or a middle ear infection, resulting vertigo may be temporary and easily treated.

However, long-term untreated problems can lead to more permanent changes in the middle and inner ear, such as a retraction of the eardrum and cholesteatoma, an abnormal collection of skin cells that grow deep in the ear. This can lead to conductive hearing loss, when sounds can't get through to the middle ear.

Other Reasons for Dizziness

There are many causes of dizziness. But there is a difference between dizziness or feeling light-headed vs. actual vertigo.

When you are dizzy or light-headed, you may feel like you are going to pass out. This feeling will typically become worse when you stand up and try to move around and improve when you lie down.

Vertigo, however, can cause you to feel as if the room is spinning or swaying or as if objects are moving around you. Vertigo may cause nausea and often will not improve when you lie down.

Understanding the types of dizziness you are experiencing can narrow down potential underlying causes.

Potential Causes of Light-Headedness

  • Heart and circulatory problems
  • Low blood pressure
  • Head injury
  • Low blood sugar
  • Certain medications

Potential Causes of Vertigo

Treatment

Different treatment options are available depending on the underlying cause of your dizziness.

Underlying infections may require antibiotics. Allergies may need to be treated by taking antihistamines, avoiding triggers, or with immunotherapy.

Nasal polyps may be treated with corticosteroids to shrink the growths, or they may need to be surgically removed.

Problems with the auditory tube may be treated with myringotomy (small tubes surgically placed in the ear) and ventilation tubes.

Summary

While vertigo is not the most common symptom of nasal polyps, the nasal and sinus passageways are closely linked to the function of the ear and the vestibular system, the sensory system of the inner ear. Inflammation from nasal polyps can cause dysfunction in the auditory tube, impacting balance and equilibrium. Several underlying conditions can affect the nose, sinuses, and ears simultaneously.

A Word From Verywell

The underlying conditions that cause nasal polyps, as well as the growths themselves, can cause debilitating and frustrating symptoms. Otolaryngologists (doctors who specialize in ear, nose, and throat conditions) can help you identify and treat these issues. If you are experiencing nasal polyps or related sinus pain, contact your healthcare provider or seek an otolaryngologist to discuss treatment options.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do nasal polyps cause vertigo?

    In rare cases, nasal polyps can affect the auditory tube, leading to vertigo.

  • Can a sinus infection cause dizziness?

    A sinus infection may be accompanied by an excessive amount of thickened mucus as well as inflammation of the nasal and sinus passageways. This combination can result in auditory tube dysfunction and subsequent vertigo.



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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hee-Young Kim. Vertigo due to eustachian tube dysfunction. Archives of Otorhinolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. 2017;1(1):5. doi:10.24983/scitemed.aohns.2017.00017

  2. Midwest Ear Institute. Conductive hearing loss.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Dizziness.