Jeremy Paxman says regular falls – including one that left him with ‘black eyes’ – were the red flag that he had Parkinson’s Disease, as University Challenge host admits it’s ‘very hard to know you’re not going to get better’

  • Jeremy Paxman, 71, revealed he suffered from Parkinson’s Disease in May  
  • Presenter said he kept falling and cutting his face and knew something wrong
  • Admitted to The Sunday Times he thought Parkinson’s manifested in tremors
  • Doctor spotted his changed demeanour on quiz show and sent him for tests 

Jeremy Paxman says regular falls were the biggest alarm bell that his health ‘wasn’t right’ as he reveals that his doctor sent him for tests after becoming concerned that he wasn’t his usual self on University Challenge.  

The presenter, 71, revealed in May that he had been diagnosed with the incurable disease, which affects the brain and motion.

The former Newsnight host told the Sunday Times Magazine he kept falling and hurting himself and would end up with cuts, bruises and black eyes and ‘blood everywhere.’

However, Paxman admitted to the newspaper that he didn’t think he had Parkinson’s, because he thought the disease only manifested through body tremors. 

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71-year-old presenter Jeremy Paxman, pictured, revealed he kept falling over and hurting himself before being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and said he was surprised because he felt the condition only manifested through body tremors

The University Challenge host says he knew something was wrong with him before he was diagnosed and admits it’s ‘very hard to know you’re not going to get better’.

He explained: ‘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”, he said. 

‘The doctor said, “You’ve got Parkinson’s.” It had never occurred to me. I thought, “Parkinson’s what?”,’ he added.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease are mild when they first appear, and they gradually worsen. 

While involuntary tremors are the symptoms most people associate the condition with, it also manifests itself through slow movement and stiff and inflexible muscles, according to the NHS. 

The BBC host said his doctor ordered some tests after seeing him on University Challenge during lockdown, pictured 

Paxman, pictured, said he didn’t want to be beaten down by his diagnosis and had to adapt to his symptoms  

Speaking of his diagnosis, Paxman, who wrote a new book, Black Gold: The History of How Coal Made Britain during lockdown, said the only thing people could do was to ‘adapt,’ but admitted he struggles with how unpredictable the disease is.   

‘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,’ he said, adding he felt tired most of the time.  

‘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,’ he added. 

The presenter was spotted using a walking stick during a visit to Manchester a month before his diagnosis became known, pictured 


Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people, including about one million Americans.

It causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability.

It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.

Sufferers are known to have diminished supplies of dopamine because nerve cells that make it have died.

There is currently no cure and no way of stopping the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific trials are underway to try and change that.  

The disease claimed the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 2016.

But the presenter, who has three grown-up children with ex partner Elizabeth Clough, said he refused to be ‘beaten down’ by the condition and said he hoped it would not totally incapacitate him. 

He added that the diagnosis made him feel depressed, but that he didn’t feel it was a series of symptoms.   

The presenter also said he didn’t want to join a support group because he was suspicious of them. 

But he did say he would donate his brain to Parkinson’s UK after his death to help their research into the condition. 

Paxman revealed his shock diagnosis in May, saying he had ‘mild symptoms’ and was receiving ‘excellent treatment.’

A month earlier, he had been seen looking frail and supporting himself with a walking stick as he was out and about in Manchester. 

At the time, he said he has suffered a nasty tumble when his dog Derek got startled by a squirrel and pulled on his lead.  

Born in Leeds, Paxman started his career in 1972 on the BBC’s graduate trainee programme, working in local radio and reporting on the Troubles in Belfast.

Shortly after moving to London in 1977, he transferred from Tonight to Panorama, before stints on the Six O’Clock News and BBC One’s Breakfast Time.

He became a presenter of Newsnight in 1989, a position he would hold until June 2014 during which time he interviewed high-profile figures from politics and culture.

After 25 years in the job, Paxman presented a programme including an interview with then London mayor Boris Johnson, while they both rode a tandem bicycle.

Paxman has also presented University Challenge since 1994, making him the longest serving current quizmaster on UK TV.

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