Jeremy Paxman health: Presenter’s ‘unpredictable’ and ‘annoying’ incurable condition

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The 71-year-old was diagnosed with Parkinson’s back in May of this year after he kept falling over. After consistently hurting himself and ending up with cuts, bruises and black eyes, Paxman sought medical advice. After naively thinking that Parkinson’s was only manifested through body tremors, the quiz master was flabbergasted by his diagnosis. “The doctor said, ‘You’ve got Parkinson’s.’ It had never occurred to me. I thought, ‘Parkinson’s what?’,” Paxman explained.

Continuing to explain how he first noticed that something wasn’t right Paxman added: “I kept falling over, I blamed the dog getting under my feet, but after the last time I went down, straight on my face, it was a real mess – black eyes, cuts and blood everywhere – and I thought, ‘this isn’t right’.”

What made the star’s diagnosis more shocking, was the fact that he thought that trembling hands were always the first sign of Parkinson’s disease.

The NHS explains that whilst involuntary tremors are the symptoms most people associate the condition with, it also manifests itself through slow movement, stiff and inflexible muscles and balance problems.

With more than 40 symptoms, Parkinson’s is extremely complex, something that Paxman found out for himself.

Speaking more about living with the disease Paxman said: “It’s the unpredictability that gets me.

“Sometimes you feel awake, sometimes you feel asleep, and how you are today is no guide to how you will be tomorrow. It’s really annoying.

“Parkinson’s is incurable, so you’re stuck with it. And that is hard. Very hard to know you’re not going to get better. You hope you will, but you don’t.”

In an interview with the Guardian Shan Nicholas, the interim chief executive of Parkinson’s UK, said: “Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world, and Jeremy choosing to speak publicly about his diagnosis will do so much to raise awareness of this much misunderstood condition.

“With his diagnosis, Jeremy is now also a part of the Parkinson’s community made up of 145,000 people in the UK, who are waiting for a breakthrough treatment.”

At the time of diagnosis, Jeremy said that his diagnosis made him feel depressed, but his symptoms remained “mild”. However, due to the nature of the condition symptoms will become progressively worse over the years.

Worsening symptoms can mean it becomes increasingly difficult to carry out everyday activities without help. The disease can also make people vulnerable to serious and life-threatening infections.

Parkinson’s UK also warns about the mental health issues that could develop alongside the disease. Anxiety, depression, dementia and hallucinations are all potential long-term conditions that can accompany Parkinson’s.

Currently there is no cure for Parkinson’s, but there are multiple treatments available. Paxman himself described the “excellent” treatment that he is receiving.

These treatments include supportive therapies, medication, and in some cases surgery.

Supportive therapies can make living with Parkinson’s disease easier for individuals to deal with symptoms on a day-to-day basis whereas occupational therapy can help you to identify areas of difficulty in your everyday life such as getting dressed.

The Mayo Clinic also explains that lifestyle changes such as physical therapy, that focuses on balance and stretching is important to manage symptoms.

Medications on the other hand help to manage walking problems, movement and tremors.

The NHS advises that those with Parkinson’s should also make some dietary changes to help improve symptoms.

These changes can include:

  • Increasing the amount of fibre in your diet and making sure you’re drinking enough fluid to reduce constipation
  • Increasing the amount of salt in your diet and eating small, frequent meals to avoid problems with low blood pressure, such as dizziness when you stand up quickly
  • Making changes to your diet to avoid unintentional weight loss.

Whilst managing his symptoms, Paxman is planning to continue broadcasting and writing for as long as he can.

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