Nasal congestion, due to colds or seasonal allergies, affects almost everyone at some point. This year, with both seasonal allergies and COVID-19 running rampant, it may be especially difficult to pinpoint what's causing it. For those with chronic nasal congestion that lasts three months or longer, it may be something else: nasal polyps.
Nasal polyps affect up to an estimated 10 million Americans. Nasal polyps are often associated with respiratory diseases such as allergies and asthma, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. They are noncancerous growths high and deep in the nose caused by chronic inflammation. Blocked nasal passages can cause persistent congestion, runny nose and recurrent sinus infections.
Brian, a 33-year-old musician, suffered from allergies and sinus infections for years before being diagnosed with nasal polyps and later treated with a different kind of nasal spray called Xhance (fluticasone propionate).
"Before treatment, I couldn't sleep, I was stuffy all day and the constant pressure gave me headaches," he said.
Nasal congestion is not just a nuisance for people like Brian. According to a Harris On Demand survey conducted in partnership with Optinose, the makers of Xhance, nearly 1 in 4 Americans with chronic nasal congestion experience it almost every day and 85% report it impacts daily life, including:
- The ability to sleep (60%), smell or properly taste food (48%) or enjoy outdoor activities (33%).
- One-third feel fatigued and more than half experience headaches.
- Many feel annoyed (54%), frustrated (46%) or tired (45%).
- Half are uncertain if their symptoms are due to nasal congestion worsening or COVID-19.
- More than half are unaware that nasal polyps could be the cause of their symptoms.
- Fewer than half have seen a specialist (an allergist or ear, nose and throat doctor) to look deeper at the problem.
"Nasal polyps are common, but they are largely underdiagnosed," said Neal Jain, M.D., a board-certified allergist and immunologist. "If someone is experiencing persistent nasal congestion and he or she has tried conventional intranasal steroid sprays but continues to have symptoms, that person should see a specialist to take a deeper look. It could be nasal polyps, which may require a different kind of solution."
Xhance is the only FDA-approved medication that uses an exhalation delivery system to treat nasal polyps. You use your own breath to carry the medicine high and deep into the nose to reach and treat the nasal polyps where they originate. It can reduce the size of polyps and improve symptoms over time with regular use. Because you blow into it – you don't sniff – it helps keep the medicine from dripping down into the throat.
"I'm relieved knowing there is something that works and I don't have to be congested all the time," Brian said.