It was while watching University Challenge that the doctor first suspected something wrong with Jeremy Paxman. Normally highly animated, the TV presenter was less effusive and exuberant than usual. He had acquired what specialists in the field call the “Parkinson’s mask”.
Paxman was formally diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in hospital after he collapsed while walking his dog and found himself in hospital. There, Paxman recalled in an ITV documentary, the doctor walked in and said: “I think you’ve got Parkinson’s”. For Paxman, at least, the news came out of the blue.
Parkinson’s was first described in medical texts more than 200 years ago, yet there is still no cure. It’s a common condition, particularly in the over-50s. About 1 in 37 people in the UK will be diagnosed at some point in their life. Existing drugs aim to manage patients’ symptoms, rather than slow down or stop the condition’s progression. But scientists have made progress in understanding the neurodegenerative disorder. The hope now is that gamechanging therapies are finally on the horizon.