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Nasal Polyps and Cystic Fibrosis

Between 6% and 48% of people with cystic fibrosis (CF) get nasal polyps, and 10-20% of those require sinus surgery for polyps and other issues related to nasal drainage. Nasal polyps seem to occur more frequently beginning in the teen years.1-3

What are nasal polyps?

Nasal polyps are small growths inside the nose. They look like translucent bags of tissue and fluid. Polyps are caused by chronic inflammation of the lining of the nose. Nasal polyps can block the nose so feeling stuffy and congested is a common sign.

Other symptoms include a runny nose, facial pain, loss of sense of smell and, rarely, nose bleeds. The thick mucus created by CF leads to chronic (constant, long-term) sinus congestion and frequent sinus infections, which doctors believe causes nasal polyps to develop.

How are nasal polyps diagnosed?

To diagnose nasal polyps, your doctor will use a tool called a nasal endoscope to look inside your nose and sinus passages. A nasal endoscope includes a thin, flexible tube, a tiny camera, and a light. The tube is inserted into the nose and sinus cavity. Your doctor may take a small tissue sample to test.2

How are nasal polyps treated?

The first steps your doctor will take to treat your nasal polyps will be to recommend saline irrigation and prescribe drugs, such as antibiotics, nasal spray steroids, decongestants, or mucolytics.1-4

Endoscopic sinus surgery is reserved for the most severe cases, but it is not generally a complicated surgery. If surgery is required, patients report that it greatly improves headaches, congestion, and runny nose.

One study found that people with CF had fewer hospital stays in the first six months after sinus surgery.4 Some researchers believe that CF-related nasal polyps are different from nasal polyps caused by other health conditions.5

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Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: September 2019
  1. Kang SH, Dalcin Pde T, Piltcher OB, Migliavacca Rde O. Chronic rhinosinusitis and nasal polyposis in cystic fibrosis: update on diagnosis and treatment. J Bras Pneumol. 2015;41(1):65–76. doi:10.1590/S1806-37132015000100009.
  2. Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Nasal Polyps. Available at: Accessed 4/24/2019.
  3. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Patient Registry Annual Data Report 2017. Available at: Accessed 4/24/2019.
  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Nasal Endoscopy. Available at: Accessed 4/24/2019.
  5. Medscape. Cystic Fibrosis and Nasal Polyposis. Available at: Accessed 4/24/2019.