What causes epilepsy? Death of Cameron Boyce puts spotlight on brain disorder

By Rachel Paula Abrahamson

Disney Channel star Cameron Boyce, who lived with epilepsy, went to bed on July 5 and never woke up.

“Cameron’s tragic passing was due to a seizure as a result of an ongoing medical condition, and that condition was epilepsy,” a family spokesperson shared. The “Descendants” actor was 20 years old.

According to Dr. Julia Henry, a neurologist at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, sometimes a person with epilepsy dies unexpectedly in their sleep from a seizure. The phenomenon is known as SUDEP, or sudden unexplained death in epilepsy.

“It’s somewhat similar to SIDS in infants, where they aren’t sick with anything else at the time,” Henry told TODAY. Each year, more than one in 1,000 people with epilepsy die from SUDEP. Individuals who miss doses of medication, are sleep deprived or suffer from tonic-clonic seizures — the type that cause convulsions — are most at risk.

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Along with avoiding any known seizure triggers, a seizure monitoring device could potentially protect someone. “It senses motion and can identify generalized convulsive seizures and sends an alert to someone else in the house,” Henry explained. “Buying one can’t hurt.”

Henry advises anyone with epilepsy to talk to their neurologist or epileptologist (a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy) about their risk for SUDEP.


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