What Is an Inflammatory Polyp?

A diagram showing sigmoid polyps and other colon problems.
A colonoscopy is typically used to diagnose inflammatory polyps if symptoms exist.
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  • Written By: Brandi L. Brown
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 07 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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An inflammatory polyp is a protuberance extending from the bowel wall in the human digestive system. In nearly all cases, inflammatory polyps are not harmful, though they may be painful. Such polyps quite often go undiagnosed. Even when someone knows he or she has an inflammatory polyp, the best course of action may be to leave it alone unless the polyp begins to cause problems.

All inflammatory polyps have the same basic look, though they sometimes look similar to other polyps or growths on initial observation. Polyps are elongated growths. They come out from the wall of the bowels in the colon. An inflammatory polyp has a rounded head, which usually is the widest portion of the polyp.

If a polyp is inflamed, it will have a whitish appearance. The white may be only in a few spots or may cover the entire polyp. This discoloration is pus — the buildup of white blood cells fighting off the inflammation of the polyp — leaving the polyp. While the thought of pus draining is not pleasant, the process also is not harmful. In fact, the draining may help the polyp improve over time, and people with these draining polyps are not usually aware of what is going on.

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Few people who have inflammatory polyps know they have them unless a doctor find the growths during a colonoscopy and reports back to the patient. A colonoscopy is a medical test in which a doctor inserts a small camera tube into the rectum to view the intestines. Doctors may find polyps throughout the intestinal tract but, unless the polyps cause any blockages, the doctor is unlikely to do anything about them. Most doctors simply record the location and size of the polyps and monitor them for changes in any future colonoscopies.

An inflammatory polyp is not a tumor and should not concern patients. These growths do not become malignant, and they can remain unchanged for a long time. The polyps are innocuous in and of themselves, though patients may worry over them. While the polyps themselves do not generally cause any problems, doctors can use their presence to confirm any suspicions of intestinal or bowel disorders, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Almost all people with one of those illnesses will have at least one inflammatory polyp, though the polyps may lie dormant for many years before typically going away on their own.

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