What Is a Myoma?

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A myoma (also known as a uterine fibroid or a leiomyoma) is a common noncancerous tumor that grows in or around the uterus. Myomas can range in size and cause symptoms like abdominal pain and heavy menstrual bleeding, but some people do not have symptoms.

The cause of myomas is not clear, but risk factors include a family history of myoma, obesity, and age. More than half of all people with a uterus will experience a myoma by age 50.

Treatment for myomas can include medication, surgery, or other medical procedures.

A recent study found that emergency room visits for myoma symptoms, such as pelvic pain and heavy bleeding, have gone up substantially from 2006 to 2017.

Here's an overview of myomas, including the most common symptoms, risk factors, treatment options, and when to see your doctor.

An illustration of a female holding her stomach and talking to a male doctor; there is a diagram of a uterus between them.

Rudzhan Nagiev / Getty Images

Types of Myoma

Each person's experience with myomas will look and feel different. It's possible to have just one myoma or several. They can range in size from as small as a pea to as large as a melon. Myomas can be located inside the uterus or on its outer surface. They may grow quickly or slowly.

Myomas are categorized by where they are located, how big they are, and the symptoms that they may cause.

The different types of myomas include:

  • Intramural myomas are the most common type. They are located within the wall of the uterus.
  • Subserosal myomas grow on the outside of the uterine wall and may put pressure on nearby organs (like the bladder) or distort the shape of the uterus if they grow large enough.
  • Pedunculated myomas develop a stalk or a stem that attaches them to the uterus. The stem may become twisted as the tumors grow away, causing severe pain.
  • Submucosal myomas are found just under the lining of the uterus and can push into the uterine cavity. They are not as common as the other types and can cause heavy bleeding.

It's possible to develop more than one type of myoma at the same time.

Myoma Symptoms

The symptoms of myomas depend on how big the tumors are and where they are located. People with myomas may have symptoms that come and go. The symptoms may get worse during their menstrual cycle. For some people, myoma symptoms are severe and cause constant pain.

Sometimes myomas do not cause any symptoms.

Possible symptoms of a myoma include:

When to See a Doctor

If you are concerned that you might have a myoma, it's important to talk to your doctor. Even if your symptoms are mild, your doctor can determine whether a myoma or another condition is causing them and figure out the best course of treatment.

Causes

Experts do not know what causes myoma, but they suspect that hormones play a role. High levels of estrogen and progesterone (hormones produced by the ovaries) may stimulate the growth of myomas, which tend to shrink when these hormone levels go down after menopause.

There are certain things that make a person more likely to get a myoma in their lifetime.

Risk factors for myomas include:

  • Family history: You're more likely to get a myoma if you have a family member who has them.
  • Obesity: People who are overweight or who have high blood pressure might be at a higher risk of developing myomas.
  • Age: Myomas become more common as people age, appearing most often in people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. After menopause, myomas tend to get smaller.
  • Diet: Eating a diet high in red meat might be linked with developing myomas, as is having a vitamin D deficiency.

Studies have shown that myomas are more common among Black people with a uterus. Low vitamin D levels, obesity, stress, genetics, and inequitable access to health care have been proposed as risk factors, but more research is needed to confirm the link.

Diagnosis

If your doctor thinks you have a myoma, there are a few steps that they will need to take to confirm the diagnosis. They will start by asking you about your health, including your family's health history. They will also want to know what your menstrual cycles have been like, and will have you describe any symptoms you have been having.

Medical tests that your doctor might use to diagnose fibroids include:

  • Pelvic examination to feel for any abnormal growths
  • Ultrasound or transvaginal ultrasound to get a clear view of the uterus
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at images of the uterus and other pelvic organs

Treatment

If you have a myoma but it is not causing any pain or other symptoms, you do not necessarily need to treat it. However, if your symptoms are severe or if the myoma is large and has the potential to cause damage to surrounding organs, your doctor will help you decide on the best treatment.

There are several choices for treating myomas, including medications, noninvasive procedures, surgery, or a combination of therapies.

You and your doctor will choose a treatment based on several factors, including:

  • How severe your symptoms are
  • The size and location of the myoma(s)
  • Whether you may want to become pregnant in the future
  • Your age and how close you are to menopause

Medication

There are several over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications that can be used to treat myomas. Some options only treat the symptoms of a myoma while others affect the growth itself.

Medications that your doctor might suggest include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, if you have mild pain and discomfort from fibroids.
  • Iron supplements if you have depleted iron levels from heavy bleeding.
  • Birth control methods such as contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and Depo-Provera can help control heavy menstrual bleeding.
  • GnRH agonists (hormone-stimulating medications) to temporarily shrink myomas (if you will be having surgery to remove the fibroids, your doctor might want you to take these medications before your surgery to reduce the size of the tumors so they are easier to take out).
  • MyFembree, which is a recently approved combination medication of GnRH, a synthetic estrogen, and a type of progestin to help stop heavy menstrual bleeding.

Surgical Procedures

Depending on the size, location, and number of myomas you have, your doctor might suggest that you have surgery to remove the fibroids.

Less invasive surgical options include:

  • Laparoscopy, a surgical procedure that uses small incisions and an instrument with a tiny camera to remove myomas that are easily accessible
  • Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a radiology procedure that uses injections to cause myomas to shrink and sometimes die
  • MRI-guided ultrasound surgery, a technique that uses ultrasound waves to shrink or remove myomas

In more severe cases, you might need to consider a more invasive type of surgery. These options include:

  • Hysterectomy is a surgery to completely remove the uterus. While this will get rid of the fibroids, it also means that you will no longer have the option of getting pregnant in the future.
  • Myomectomy is a surgical procedure that requires a large incision in the abdomen to remove the fibroids without removing the uterus. While a person still has their uterus and might be able to get pregnant in the future, there is also a risk that the fibroids will come back.

Home Remedies

While there are no home remedies that directly treat fibroids, you might find that some of them help you to cope with fibroid symptoms. Talk to your doctor about any complementary therapies they would approve for you to try.

Types of alternative therapies you might want to discuss with your doctor include:

There are also some lifestyle changes that might help you cope more effectively with fibroid symptoms and can improve your overall health and wellness, including:

  • Dietary changes
  • Exercising
  • Managing your stress levels
  • Losing weight if you are overweight/obese

Prognosis

Myomas are common, but each person's experience with them will be different. While some people are able to effectively manage the condition or have treatment that reduces their symptoms and improves their quality of life, myomas that are not treated can cause complications—even if you do not have symptoms.

The potential complications of myomas mostly pertain to fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth and include:

  • Fertility issues
  • Pregnancy complications (such as miscarriage or early labor)
  • The need for cesarean delivery (or C-section)

If you have myomas and wish to become pregnant, it's important to talk to your doctor. While myomas do not always cause problems during pregnancy, there is a risk of complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat myomas naturally?

Some people may find natural alternative treatments and lifestyle changes helpful. For example, eating a diet that is rich in fruits and veggies and maintaining a healthy weight can improve your overall health. Stress management techniques such as yoga and meditation can boost your sense of well-being and might help you cope with fibroid symptoms.

Some studies have found that acupuncture, green tea, and certain forms of traditional Chinese medicine may lessen the severity of menstrual cramps and bleeding, but there is no research specifically on using these treatments for fibroids.

You should always talk to your doctor before trying any alternative or complementary therapy.

What is the difference between uterine fibroids and myoma?

The terms myoma, leiomyoma, and uterine fibroids all refer to the same thing—a noncancerous tumor or growth in or around the uterus. Myomas are most commonly called uterine fibroids.

Why is myoma painful?

The size and the location of a myoma determine how much pain it causes. Some myomas on the outside of the uterus put pressure on surrounding organs. Myomas inside the uterine wall can distort the shape of the uterus and cause abdominal pressure and pain.

What is considered a large myoma?

Myomas vary in size. In general, a large myoma is considered to be 10 centimeters (cm) or more in diameter.

Here is a size reference:

  • Small myomas: Up to 5 cm across (about the size of a seed to a cherry)
  • Medium myomas: Up to 10 cm (roughly the size of a plum or an orange)
  • Large myomas: 10 cm or larger (about as big as a large grapefruit or a small melon)

A Word From Verywell

If you've been diagnosed with a myoma, know that there are several options for managing and treating the condition. If you do not have symptoms, you might not need specific treatment. However, if you are in pain or have other symptoms that affect your life, it's important to tell your doctor.

Everyone's experience with myomas will be different because the size and location of the growths not only determine the pain and symptoms that they cause, but also which treatments will be the best choice.

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