How Nasal Polyps Are Treated

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Nasal polyps are soft, swollen, abnormal, sac-like growths that line the inside of a person's nose or sinuses. They are often teardrop-shaped and grow together in groups on both sides of a person's nasal cavity.

There are several different treatments for nasal polyps, ranging from medications (including antibiotics, antileukotrienes, and antihistamines), daily rinsing, allergen immunotherapy, steroids, and in some cases, surgery. However, there is no guarantee that the nasal polyps won't return following surgery.

Shot of a young businesswoman suffering with a headache, holding her sinuses, while working in an office

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Home Remedies and Lifestyle

While home remedies and lifestyle changes will not directly treat nasal polyps, they can help manage some of the underlying conditions that can cause polyps, like chronic sinusitis and allergies. Some examples include:

  • Taking your allergy and asthma medications as directed
  • Avoiding places with large amounts of airborne allergens or irritants that lead to inflammation of your nose and sinus cavities (i.e., a dusty attic, a field of grass, etc).
  • Washing your hands regularly to prevent bacteria and viruses from entering the nasal passageways
  • Using a humidifier in your home and/or inhaling steam over a pot of hot water when the inside of the nose feels especially dry
  • Using a saline nasal rinse or spray to remove allergens or other irritants that may cause nasal polyps

Over-the-Counter Therapies

Some of the over-the-counter (OTC) therapies that a doctor might recommend include those to help deal with symptoms, reduce inflammation, and manage a person's allergies, which may contribute to their nasal polyps. Examples of these include:

  • Antihistamines like Zyrtec (cetirizine), Claritin (loratadine), Allegra (fexofenadine)
  • Topical nasal steroid sprays, like Flonase (fluticasone propionate) and Nasacort (mometasone furoate)

Prescriptions

Most of the medications used to treat nasal polyps require a prescription. These include:

  • Nasal steroid sprays and drops: In addition to the OTC nasal sprays mentioned above, there are also prescription versions of these medications, including Nasonex (mometasone), which aims to shrink polyps and help clear blocked nasal passages and runny nose. The FDA has also recently approved Xhance, a spray that enters the nasal passages via an oral mechanism. However, symptoms return if the spray is stopped.
  • Corticosteroid pills or liquid: Oral corticosteroids like prednisone and dexamethasone may also shrink polyps and/or reduce swelling and nasal congestion for a few months. Oral corticosteroids have a number of potential side effects, including dizziness, headache, muscle weakness, nausea, and vomiting, among others.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics like Augmentin (amoxicillin/clavulanate), Zithromax (azithromycin), Levaquin (levofloxacin), Bactrim or Septra (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole), and Amoxil (amoxicillin) can be used to treat a sinus infection caused by bacteria, though they can't treat polyps or sinus infections caused by a virus. Also, there is not much scientific evidence that they are effective for treating nasal polyps.
  • Biologic medication: An injected medication (delivered under the skin) called Dupixent (dupilumab) has been shown to reduce the need for surgery and treatment with oral steroids. Dupilumab is a monoclonal antibody initially approved for the treatment of dermatitis and asthma, and can also target inflammation that may cause polyps. Talk to your doctor about the potential side effects of Dupixent, which can include oral herpes and a number of eye-related issues.
  • Oral antileukotriene medications: These medications, like Singulair (montelukast), are theoretically beneficial for people with nasal polyps, especially those with an aspirin allergy. Those taking phenobarbital or rifampin should talk to their doctor before starting Singulair, as interactions may occur.

Surgery

In situations where medications aren't doing much to alleviate a person's symptoms related to nasal polyps, their doctor may recommend surgery.

Most often, endoscopic sinus surgery is performed. And much like the endoscope used to diagnose nasal polyps, it is a thin, flexible tube with a light and instruments at the other end. It is inserted in the nasal passages, then used to remove the polyp, which is preventing the flow of sinus and nasal fluids from properly draining and ventilating your sinus and nasal passages.

This is typically an out-patient procedure. Also, there is no guarantee that the nasal polyps won't regrow.

Can Nasal Polyps Grow Back?

Unfortunately, it is not unusual for nasal polyps to grow back after they are surgically removed. To help keep them at bay, your doctor may prescribe inhaled nasal steroids for you to take following your surgery.

A Word From Verywell

While there are ways to help treat the symptoms related to nasal polyps, there isn't a way that will remove them once and for all. Medications can make living with nasal polyps more bearable—in some cases, even shrinking them a bit—but the only way to remove them is through surgery. But even that isn't a guarantee that they won't return.

The key here is to pay attention to your ability to breathe through your nose, whether or not you've had surgery to treat nasal polyps. If something doesn't feel right, or you're having trouble breathing through your nose, contact your doctor to find out what's going on.

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  1. Cleveland Clinic. Nasal polyps. Updated: February 5, 2021.

  2. MedlinePlus. Nasal polyps. Updated August 12, 2019.

  3. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Nasal polyps. Updated June 28, 2019.

  4. Cedars-Sinai. Nasal polyps.