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Peripheral arterial disease - What will happen to me?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Everyone is different, and it's difficult to say exactly what will happen to you. Your symptoms may get better on their own, they may stay the same, or they may gradually get worse.

If you have peripheral arterial disease, you're more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke. Your legs may also get badly damaged.

Here's what we know from the research.[10][11]

  • Over a period of five years, 1 in 5 people with pain in their calf when they exercise have a heart attack or a stroke.

  • People with peripheral arterial disease are two to three times more likely to die earlier than people who don't have this condition.

  • About 3 in 10 people with peripheral arterial disease die within five years of having the disease diagnosed. About 7 in 10 die after 15 years. Mostly, people die because of heart disease or a stroke.

  • Some people get very bad damage to the arteries in their leg. In rare cases, people end up needing to have their leg amputated. In one study, less than 2 in 100 people needed to have a leg amputated in the first eight years after being diagnosed.[12] This study was published in the 1980s, so the outlook is likely to be better now.

These figures may sound alarming. But remember that the research can't say what will happen to you as an individual. Treatment may help improve your symptoms, reduce your chances of having a heart attack or a stroke, and stop your condition getting worse.


heart attack

Doctors call a heart attack an acute myocardial infarction (or acute MI). This is the name for the damage that occurs to the heart muscle if it isn't getting enough blood and oxygen because a branch of the coronary arteries is blocked. During a heart attack, you may have pain or heaviness over your chest, and pain, numbness or tingling in your jaw and left arm.


You have a stroke when the blood supply to a part of your brain is cut off. This damages your brain and can cause symptoms like weakness or numbness on one side of your body. You may also find it hard to speak if you've had a stroke.

For more terms related to Peripheral arterial disease


For references related to Peripheral arterial disease click here.
Last Updated: September 26, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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