The family of Disney star Cameron Boyce says the actor suffered from epilepsy and that his death was due to a seizure.
“We are still trying to navigate our way through this extremely heart-wrenching time,” family members told People magazine this week.
Boyce, 20, known for his role in the Disney Channel show Jessie, was found dead in his North Hollywood home on Saturday afternoon, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
An autopsy was performed Monday but a finding of the cause of death was “deferred,” the agency said.
More than 5 million people in the United States have a history of epilepsy, and the condition is active in 3.4 million, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A person is diagnosed with epilepsy after having two or more seizures — a disruption in the electrical signals traveling between brain cells.
Some seizures can cause the person to experience “staring spells,” the CDC says — appearing to stare at nothing in particular. Others seizures cause involuntary shaking and can lead to falls.
Epilepsy can be caused by strokes, tumors, brain infections, head injury, and loss of oxygen, among other risk factors. In two-thirds of patients with epilepsy, the cause is unknown, the CDC says.
The condition can be treated with anti-seizure drugs, though they do not work in one-third of patients.
If the seizures originate from a single “focal” location in the brain, one option is to remove that part of the brain through surgery.
Some patients have experienced improvement after undergoing a treatment called vagus nerve stimulation, in which an electrical device is implanted in the chest to stimulate a large nerve in the neck.
Many people with epilepsy live long, productive lives, but the risk of premature death is 1.6 to 3 times higher than in the general population.
Death can result from seizure-related falls and other injuries, or from prolonged seizures in cases when patients suddenly stop taking medication, the CDC says. In people whose epilepsy is caused by a stroke or tumor, premature death can occur as a result of that underlying cause.