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Can you get a cyst in your nose?

Quick Answer

Yes, it is possible to get a cyst in your nose. Nasal cysts, also known as nasal polyps, are abnormal tissue growths that develop in the lining of the nasal passages or sinus cavities. While the exact cause is unknown, they often form as the result of chronic inflammation due to allergies, asthma, recurring infections, or other irritation. Nasal cysts can cause obstruction and discomfort, but are usually non-cancerous growths. Treatment options include steroid nasal sprays, oral steroids, and surgery to remove larger cysts.

What is a Nasal Cyst?

A nasal cyst is a round, dome-shaped growth that develops in the lining of the nasal cavity or one of the paranasal sinuses. The medical term for a nasal cyst is a nasal polyp. Nasal polyps are benign (non-cancerous) masses that form as the result of chronic inflammation and swelling of the nasal and sinus tissues.[1]

Nasal polyps form most often in adults and tend to occur in people over age 40. However, children can also develop nasal cysts, most commonly in connection with cystic fibrosis.[2]

Nasal polyps can occur as a single cyst or in a cluster. They can range in size from tiny, pea-sized growths to larger polyps an inch or more across. Although benign, larger cysts or clusters can obstruct airflow and drainage from the sinuses, leading to congestion, postnasal drip, and increased risk of sinus infections.[3]

Signs and Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of nasal cysts include:

  • Chronic congestion or stuffiness, sometimes one-sided
  • Runny nose with thin, watery discharge
  • Postnasal drip down the back of the throat
  • Loss of smell
  • Facial pressure or pain
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Frequent sinus infections
  • Snoring or sleep apnea

If a nasal cyst becomes infected, additional symptoms may occur such as fever, severe pain, and thick colored nasal discharge.

Causes and Risk Factors

The underlying cause of nasal polyps is not entirely clear. However, they seem to arise most often from chronic inflammation in the nasal passages and sinuses due to the following factors:[4]

  • Allergic rhinitis – allergies to pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold
  • Non-allergic rhinitis – sensitivity to irritants like cigarette smoke, air pollution, strong odors
  • Asthma – up to 40% of people with asthma develop nasal polyps
  • Aspirin sensitivity
  • Cystic fibrosis – a genetic disorder that causes mucus buildup
  • Recurring sinus infections
  • Anatomical factors like a deviated septum or nasal turbinate swelling
  • In rare cases, polyps due to the nasal mucosa will proliferate in a disorder known as inverted papilloma, or develop into cancerous malignancies known as squamous cell carcinoma or adenocarcinoma.[5]

Factors that may increase risk of developing nasal cysts include:

  • Age over 40
  • Male gender
  • Smoking
  • Genetics – risk is greater with family history
  • Being overweight

Diagnosing Nasal Polyps

Nasal cysts are usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical exam, along with one or more of the following tests:

Physical Exam

An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist will visually examine the inside of the nose with a tool called a nasal endoscope. This long, thin tube with a light and camera can detect nasal polyps in the nasal passages. The doctor will check for any obstruction, inflammation, or abnormal growths.

Imaging Tests

  • CT scan – A computed tomography scan of the sinuses can identify the size and location of nasal cysts.
  • MRI – A magnetic resonance imaging test may also be done to evaluate the sinuses.
  • X-ray – Plain film x-rays are not used as often to diagnose nasal polyps.

Nasal Endoscopy

In this procedure, a tiny camera on the end of a tube is inserted into the nose to visually inspect the nasal passages. Nasal endoscopy can accurately visualize the presence and extent of cysts and polyps.


Rarely, a biopsy may be done to sample the polyp tissue. This can determine if abnormal or cancerous cells are present.

Allergy testing

Since allergies are a frequent cause of nasal polyps, allergy testing may be performed using skin or blood tests. This can identify potential allergens triggering polyp growth.

Treatment for Nasal Cysts

Several treatment approaches are available for managing nasal polyps:

Nasal Steroid Sprays

Corticosteroid nasal sprays are typically the first line treatment for nasal cysts. The steroids help reduce inflammation to promote polyp shrinkage and relieve obstruction. Long-term use is often required to maintain results.

Examples: Fluticasone (Flonase), triamcinolone (Nasacort), mometasone (Nasonex), budesonide (Rhinocort).

Oral Corticosteroids

For more severe cases, a short course of oral corticosteroid tablets (prednisone) may be prescribed. Oral steroids act systemically to reduce polyp inflammation and are often combined with nasal sprays.

Other Medications

Medications that can help supplement nasal steroids include:

  • Antihistamines – for allergic rhinitis
  • Leukotriene modifiers – block inflammatory chemicals
  • Decongestants – shrinking swollen tissues
  • Nasal rinses – saline solution to flush the nasal cavity
  • Antibiotics – if there is a bacterial infection present


If medications are not effective at relieving obstruction and symptoms, surgery may be recommended. This involves removing the cysts and opening up the nasal passages.

Types of surgery include:

  • Polypectomy – removing polyps through the nostrils
  • Endoscopic sinus surgery – operating through the nostrils to clear blockages and cysts

Surgery often provides significant relief of symptoms, but recurrence is common without continued medical treatment. Multiple surgeries may be necessary in difficult cases.

Preventing Nasal Polyps

Steps that may help reduce the risk of developing nasal cysts include:

  • Treating allergies and avoiding known triggers
  • Using a saline rinse to flush the nasal cavity
  • Quitting smoking
  • Promptly treating sinus infections with antibiotics
  • Using a nasal steroid spray if prescribed
  • Avoiding irritants like pollution, dust, or chemicals

Since nasal polyps tend to recur, regular follow up with an ENT doctor is important even after treatment. Recurrence rates of up to 80% have been observed.[6] Long-term medication and additional surgery may be needed to keep the condition under control.

Outlook for Nasal Cysts

The prognosis for nasal polyps is generally good, but depends on the severity and response to treatment. With proper management, most people can achieve improved nasal breathing and relief from uncomfortable symptoms.

However, nasal polyps tend to be a chronic, recurring condition for many patients. Frequent recurrences can lead to impaired quality of life and lost productivity. Rarely, uncontrolled growths can obstruct the nasal airway to the point of being life-threatening.

Close monitoring and adherence to treatment is important, especially when there are factors like uncontrolled asthma present. Though not considered premalignant, recurrent polyps also have a very small risk of undergoing cancerous changes over time.


Nasal cysts, also known as nasal polyps, are non-cancerous growths that commonly arise in the nasal passages and sinuses. Though benign, they become problematic when enlarging and obstructing airflow, drainage, or promoting sinus infection. Treatment aims to reduce inflammation and remove obstructing cysts. Options range from nasal steroid sprays and oral steroids to surgery in refractory cases. Preventing recurrence requires controlling triggers like allergies and irritants. With comprehensive management, nasal polyps can often be controlled, maintaining open nasal breathing and quality of life. However, recurrence is common and long-term treatment is usually necessary.


  1. Settipane, G. A. (1996). Epidemiology of nasal polyps. Allergy and Asthma Proceedings, 17(5), 231-236.
  2. Sloan, B., & Honda, K. (2019). Nasal polyps in cystic fibrosis. International Journal of Otolaryngology, 2019.
  3. Benninger, M. S. (2003). Nasal polyposis: medical management and surgery. Current allergy and asthma reports, 3(1), 79-85.
  4. Larsen, P. L., & Tos, M. (2002). Origin of nasal polyps. Laryngoscope, 112(2), 382-393.
  5. Santarelli, G. D., Wong, R. J., & Cohen, N. A. (2020). Nasal polyposis: diagnosis and treatment. Medical Clinics, 104(6), 1037-1056.
  6. Huang, Z., Hajjij, A., Li, W., Zhou, X., & Zhang, J. (2020). Local drug delivery for nasal polyposis treatment. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 11, 901.