Nasal polyps are soft, teardrop-shaped, abnormal growths on the tissue lining your sinuses or nasal passages. They’re often associated with symptoms such as a runny nose or nasal congestion.

These painless growths are typically benign (noncancerous). However, if symptoms persist or become severe, consult with your doctor to ensure they’re not a sign of cancer.

According to the University of Washington, about 4 percent of people experience nasal polyps. They’re most common in middle-aged adults but can also affect young people.

Nasal polyps can form throughout your sinuses or nasal passages, but most often are found in your sinuses near your cheekbones, eyes, and nose.

The first steps for diagnosing nasal polyps is a general physical examination and an examination of your nose. Your doctor might be able to see polyps with a nasoscope — a small instrument with a light and lens used to view in the inside of your nose.

If your doctor is unable to see your nasal polyps with a nasoscope, the next step may be a nasal endoscopy. For this procedure, your doctor guides a thin tube with a light and camera into your nasal cavity.

To learn the size, location, and extent of inflammation of your nasal polyps, your doctor may also recommend a CT or MRI scan. This also helps determine the potential of cancerous growths.

Most nasal polyps are not a sign of nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer. Instead, they’re typically the result of chronic inflammation from:

Polyps can form when tissue of the nasal mucosa — which protects your sinus and the inside of your nose — becomes inflamed.

Nasal polyps are associated with chronic sinusitis. Symptoms can include:

If your nasal polyps are small, you may not notice them. However, if several form or your nasal polyps are large, they may block your sinuses or nasal passages. This can lead to:

  • frequent infections
  • loss of sense of smell
  • breathing problems

Nasal polyps are usually treated without surgery. Your doctor will prescribe medications to reduce inflammation and the size of the polyps.

To relieve symptoms, your doctor may also recommend nasal steroids such as:

  • budesonide (Rhinocort)
  • fluticasone (Flonase, Veramyst)
  • mometasone (Nasonex)

If your nasal polyps are a result of allergies, your doctor may recommend antihistamines to reduce allergy symptoms.

If nonsurgical treatment options are not effective, one common procedure is endoscopic surgery. Endoscopic surgery involves a surgeon inserting a tube with a camera and light attached to it into your nostrils and removing the polyps using small tools.

If removed, nasal polyps might return. Your doctor may recommend a routine of saline washes or nasal spray that reduce inflammation and work to prevent reoccurrence.

Nasal polyps are usually not a sign of cancer. You may be at a higher risk of nasal polyps if you experience other conditions that cause chronic inflammation in your sinuses such as asthma, allergies, or acute sinusitis.

While the condition does not always require treatment, speak with your doctor if symptoms persist or worsen over time. They can diagnose the cause and recommend effective treatment.