Ear, Nose and Throat

How to Tell If You Have Nasal Polyps

Originally published February 27, 2018

Last reviewed December 16, 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Do you have a runny or stuffed up nose? There might be more to your symptoms than just a head cold.

Nasal polyps are sac-like growths that form in the lining of your nasal passage and sinuses, often near the eyes, nose and cheekbones. They’re usually benign and may range in size — small polyps generally don’t cause any symptoms, but larger growths may block sinuses and nasal airways.

Although experts haven’t identified a cause for nasal polyps, certain conditions, including asthma, hay fever, cystic fibrosis and chronic sinus infections may increase a person’s risk of developing polyps.

“If the polyps are small and do not obstruct the nasal cavity, you may not have many symptoms. However, if they grow larger or are in certain areas of the nose, they can lead to nasal congestion, loss of sense of smell, postnasal drip and facial pressure,” says Elisabeth D. Ference, MD, an otolaryngologist at Keck Medicine of USC and assistant professor of clinical otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“In extreme cases, polyps can grow so large they can be seen when just looking in the nose. If polyps go untreated for a long period of time, the constant pressure can lead to widening of the nose and the space between the eyes.”

Symptoms of nasal polyps can include: a runny or stuffed up nose, sneezing, a loss of taste or smell, snoring, headaches and, in some cases, pain. People with nasal polyps also report feeling like they have a constant head cold.

Treatment options for these growths can range from medications to surgery, but it’s important to note that nasal polyps tend to recur. Your doctor can help you decide which treatment options may work best for you.


Dr. Elisabeth Ference
nasal polyps
Deanna Pai
Deanna Pai is a freelance writer and editor.