As Cameron Boyce's family confirm his death was due to a seizure of epilepsy, here's everything you need to know about the condition

Marie Claire Dorking
Cameron Boyce tragically died last week as the result of a seizure from epilepsy [Photo: Getty]
Cameron Boyce tragically died last week as the result of a seizure from epilepsy [Photo: Getty]

Last week, news broke that Disney Channel actor Cameron Boyce had tragically died in his sleep.

Now the 20-year-old’s family have confirmed that his death was "due to a seizure as a result of epilepsy”.

A family spokesperson told ABC News in a statement: "Cameron's tragic passing was due to a seizure as a result of an ongoing medical condition, and that condition was epilepsy."

The condition, which affects the brain and causes frequent seizures, is one of the most common neurological disorders in the world, affecting approximately 50 million people across the globe.

Despite its prevalence, there are still some unknowns associated with the condition, including some of the potential causes and who is most at risk.

What is epilepsy?

According to the NHS website, epilepsy is a common condition which causes frequent seizures due bursts of electrical activity in the brain.

Though electrical activity is continually happening in the brain, an unexpected burst can temporarily cause it to stop working as it should.

The Epilepsy Foundation says epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder, stating that 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy in their lifetime.

Approximately 87 people in the country are diagnosed with the condition every day.

According to the Epilepsy Society, one in 20 people are likely to have a one-off epileptic seizure at some point in their lifetime.

However, this does not necessarily mean that they have epilepsy.

Though it can start at any age, the condition most commonly begins either in childhood or in one’s 60s.

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Symptoms of epilepsy

The main symptom of epilepsy comes in the form of seizures.

“Epilepsy is most known for causing seizures, which are commonly known as fits, and the condition can vary in severity from patient to patient,” explains Dr Daniel Cichi from Doctor4U.

The NHS says seizures can affect people in different ways, depending on which part of the brain is involved.

Possible symptoms include:

  • uncontrollable jerking and shaking – called a "fit"

  • losing awareness and staring blankly into space

  • becoming stiff

  • strange sensations – such as a "rising" feeling in the tummy, unusual smells or tastes, and a tingling feeling in your arms or legs

  • collapsing

They also point out that sufferers can sometimes pass out and not remember what happened.

“Seizures may not always be obvious, as some patients experience a loss of consciousness with or without shaking or convulsions, whilst some might not remember the fit at all, or be aware of unusual feelings in the body,” Dr Cichi explains.

What causes epilepsy?

According to the Epilepsy Foundation causes of the condition vary by age of the sufferer.

“Some people with no clear cause of epilepsy may have a genetic cause,” the site explains. “But what's true for every age is that the cause is unknown for about half of everyone with epilepsy.”

The NHS says one potential cause of epilepsy could be your genes impacting how your brain works - around one in three people with epilepsy have a family member with it.

Less commonly, epilepsy could be caused by damage to the brain, such as damage from a stroke, brain tumour, severe head injury, drug abuse or alcohol misuse, a brain infection (such as meningitis), lack of oxygen during birth.

“There isn’t always a clear cause of epilepsy, though it’s thought that it may be genetic, as it’s fairly common to have more than one person in a family with the condition,” Dr Cichi explains.

“However, sometimes epilepsy can be the result of brain damage or injury. This can either occur at birth if the baby doesn’t receive enough oxygen, or it can develop later on in life after a head trauma or tumour.”

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Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions in the world [Photo: Getty]
Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions in the world [Photo: Getty]

How is epilepsy treated?

Though there is no complete cure for epilepsy, treatment can help many sufferers experience fewer seizures or stop having seizures completely.

According to the NHS treatments include:

  • medicines called anti-epileptic drugs – these are the main treatment

  • surgery to remove a small part of the brain that's causing the seizures

  • a procedure to put a small electrical device inside the body that can help control seizures

  • a special diet (ketogenic diet) that can help control seizures

Some people need treatment for life. But you might be able to stop treatment if your seizures disappear over time.

“Unfortunately, epilepsy can’t be cured, but luckily there are treatments available for it to control symptoms – the most common of which being anti-epileptic medicines,” Dr Cichi explains.

“These are usually used as a first-line treatment and help to reduce the amount of seizures and their severity.

“If this doesn’t work, some patients may need brain surgery or an electrical implant, but most usually find that medication helps to reduce the symptoms effectively.

“Some patients even find that their symptoms decrease naturally as they age,” he adds.

According to Dr Cichi a handful of epilepsy patients in the UK are treated with medical cannabis.

“But this is reserved only for the most severe and treatment-resistant cases, and must be prescribed by a specialist or consultant at a hospital rather than your GP,” he adds.

For more information on epilepsy, including how to help someone who is having a seizure, visit the Epilepsy Action website.