Heredity, allergies, environmental factors, and chemicals on the job
The cause of polyps in the nose has been long regarded as a largely unknown. Children, like adults, may be affected from these benign growths in the nose, making it difficult to breathe and may also lead to significant physical impairments.
The size of the growths vary, ranging from millimeters to a larger size which makes breathing through the nose almost impossible. Previously suspected triggers were chronic inflammation caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi, plus allergies and asthma.
A team of scientists from Greece did a case-control study which revealed further clues and uncovered other causes. Environmental factors and chemicals at work had a considerable significance for the occurrence of polyps.
Study reveals causes of polyps
A Greek research team studied 100 patients from three Athens hospitals and 102 control subjects. The following factors were considered for each study participant: the gender, education level, family history, allergies, smoking, occupational activities and environmental impacts.
Symptoms of nasal polyps
The symptoms caused by nasal polyps depends on the severity and the anatomical features.
The following symptoms are commonly observed:
- Difficult breathing through the nose
- Vague, slurred pronunciation, speaking through his nose,
- poor performance
- sleep disorders, snoring
- Decreased sense of smell
- Frequent inflammation of the sinuses
Inheritance and allergy causes of polyps in the nose
The researchers found that polyps can also be inherited. A total of 13.3% of the patients inherited the polyps. In the control group, however, none of the family members had nasal polyps. The presence of allergies was higher in patients with polyps. In 64% of the patients, different allergies were found, and in 12% there was a probable presence of allergies.
Environmental factors and chemical causes for polyps
In some workplaces, employees experience heavy contact with chemicals and dust. This may also lead to nasal polyps, the researchers found. In particular, exposure to chemicals at work turned out to be a common cause in the patients with polyps. Smoking, however, was not a significant trigger factor; and in addition, the level of education was also irrelevant for the occurrence of polyps.
The scientists concluded from their study results that nasal polyps are often caused by allergies and may be familial. A genetic predisposition is a cause for consideration by the Greek scientists, but also the influence and incidence of chemicals and substances from the environment and the workplace can cause nasal polyps. Patients had more polyps, when confronted with chemicals in the workplace, than when polyps occurred in the family.
Treatment of nasal polyps
The treatment of choice for nasal polyps was previously two options: Long-term treatment with cortisone spray (usually at least 6 months) and / or surgery. The findings of the scientists from Athens however suggest another approach: allergen avoidance, and exposure and eliminating the chemicals in the living and working environment. Where allergens and chemicals cannot be avoided, wearing protective masks with good ventilation would be a good preventive measure of protection to prevent exposures to chemicals and dust.
Autor: Silvia K. Müller, CSN – Chemical Sensitivity Network
Alexiou A, Sourtzi P, Dimakopoulou K, Manolis E, Velonakis E., Nasal polyps: heredity, allergies, and environmental and occupational exposure, J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2011 Feb;40 (1):58-63.