Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Nasal and Sinus Polyps

Nasal and sinus polyps are caused by chronic inflammation of the nasal and sinus lining and are more likely to occur in people with certain respiratory conditions. Those conditions include:

  • Chronic rhinitis
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Asthma
  • Hay fever and other respiratory allergies
  • Aspirin allergy
  • Cystic fibrosis (rarely) when polyps are found in children under 10 years old

There is a genetic component to nasal and sinus polyps. If someone in your family has polyps, you are more likely to develop them as well.

Diagnosing nasal and sinus polyps

Sinus polyps can sometimes be identified when your physician looks inside your nostrils with a lighted tool. If not, other exams may be conducted, including:

  • Nasal endoscopy: An endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera on the end) is inserted through your nostrils and progressed through your nasal passages and sinuses.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: This test combines X-ray and computer technology to produce detailed cross-sectional images of your sinuses.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: Magnets create an image of your nasal and sinus tissue.
  • Allergy testing: Skin tests or blood tests may be conducted to see if you have inhalant allergies.
  • Biopsy: Your physician may perform a biopsy (obtain small tissue samples) by using forceps (tiny tweezers) that are passed through the endoscope. A pathologist will examine the sample to determine if the tissues are abnormal.