Nasal polyps are very common, especially in people with chronic rhinosinusitis. Chronic rhinosinusitis happens when your sinuses are inflamed for 3 months or longer.
An estimated 12 percent of all adults have chronic rhinosinusitis and, of these people, 20 percent have nasal polyps, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Polyps are benign (noncancerous) growths in the nasal passages and sinuses. They can become larger and eventually cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as frequent congestion and infections.
They may even interfere with your ability to smell.
If you experience symptoms from nasal polyps that affect your quality of life despite treatment, your doctor may recommend a type of endoscopic sinus surgery known as a polypectomy.
This surgery is the only way to completely remove nasal polyps. It can result in lasting improvement of symptoms, including to your sense of smell.
However, the surgery itself may temporarily impact your sense of smell. There’s also a strong likelihood that the growths may return, which may again affect your sense of smell.
Learn more about how nasal polyps and the surgery to remove them may affect your sense of smell and what you can do about it.
Although nasal polyps are benign, they can cause a host of uncomfortable symptoms as they grow larger. Polyps may grow so large they eventually block your nasal passages.
It’s common to experience a loss of smell with large nasal polyps. Other possible symptoms of these growths include:
- feeling of fullness or pressure in your cheeks
- runny nose
- post-nasal drip
- frequent sinus infections
- nasal obstruction
To shrink nasal polyps and improve your symptoms, your doctor may recommend treatments, such as:
- steroid nasal sprays
- allergy medications
- saline nasal rinses
- biologic injections
Some of these treatments may reduce the likelihood that you’ll need surgery.
The only way to completely remove nasal polyps is with surgery. This may be necessary depending on the size and location of the growths.
Still, there are side effects to consider.
Most nasal polyp surgery is done endoscopically. This involves inserting a rigid scope through the nostril to remove polyps.
You may experience temporary bleeding after surgery, especially when you blow your nose. It’s also common for blood in your nose to dry out. The resulting crusts can block your nasal passages and affect your sense of smell for a few weeks after surgery.
Your doctor may suggest using saline nasal sprays or rinses to clear out your nasal passageways, as well as steroid medications after surgery.
You’ll likely also visit your doctor to remove crusts and drug-eluting stents, which slowly release medication into your nose to help reduce inflammation and help the healing process, if they were inserted during surgery.
Once your nasal passages have healed, your sense of smell should improve because the polyps and bloody crusts no longer obstruct your nose. You may also experience relief from other nasal polyp symptoms along with fewer sinus infections.
Sometimes it’s possible to develop a sinus infection after nasal polyp surgery. This is caused by sinus inflammation from the procedure.
In the long term, it’s likely for nasal polyps to return. This risk may be decreased by using medications or maintenance treatments.
If you have chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps (CRwNP), your doctor may recommend injections of a biologic medication to treat the underlying inflammation.
These medications have been shown to:
- reduce the size of polyps
- improve symptoms
- reduce the odds that you’ll require surgery in the future
While smell and taste are considered two separate types of senses, they both influence how you experience flavors when eating and drinking.
Nasal obstruction after surgery may temporarily decrease your sense of taste (hypogeusia).
After you heal from surgery, your sense of smell along with your sense of taste should be restored.
Losing your sense of smell from a polypectomy is usually temporary. Your symptoms will resolve as your nose heals. It’s rare to experience a permanent or total loss of smell (anosmia).
One 2019 research review found that 9 percent of adults who underwent nasal surgery reported that their sense of smell got worse after surgery. In these causes, surgery may have caused injury that affected the olfactory senses.
Overall, it can take about 1 month before you stop noticing blood when you blow your nose. It may take about the same amount for your sense of smell to return. Saline sprays and prescription nasal medications may help with these effects.
The previously mentioned
Another study published in 2017 noted that adults who underwent surgery for CRwNP also reported improved smell within 2 weeks of the procedure. These results were determined to last for at least 6 months.
A common risk of this surgery is that nasal polyps will return.
One 2019 study of adults who had polypectomies reported that the majority still had improved sense of smell 12 years after surgery. However, 81 percent experienced nasal polyp recurrences within this period.
Once these growths come back, you may experience issues with smell once again.
Surgical removal may still be worth it, given the improved symptoms overall.
Unfortunately, there’s no known timeline for when nasal polyps will grow back. Contact a doctor as soon as possible if you experience new loss of smell or other symptoms of nasal polyps.
A polypectomy is a type of surgery that removes nasal polyps. Your doctor may recommend this procedure if you continue to experience symptoms including loss of smell despite medications.
Overall, nasal polyp surgery should improve symptoms. It’s possible to experience a loss of smell within the first few weeks as you heal, likely due to dried blood in the nasal passages.
A loss of smell can lead to reduced sense of taste as well.
If you start to experience a loss of smell long after you’ve healed, this could indicate that your nasal polyps have returned. Your doctor will help you determine the next course of action in your treatment plan, including medications or a possible repeat surgery.