Actor Cameron Boyce, 20, who died on Saturday, was suffering from epilepsy and his death was caused by a seizure that occurred while he was sleeping, his family said in a statement.
Mr. Boyce has appeared on Disney Channel shows, including "Descendants" and "Jessie," and has appeared in a number of films.
"The tragic death of Cameron was due to a seizure resulting from a persistent illness, it was epilepsy," a spokesman for the Boyce family told ABC News in a statement. Tuesday evening. The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office conducted an autopsy, but said it was waiting for additional tests before determining the official cause of death.
The most likely cause of his death was sudden or sudden death in epilepsy, said Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the Comprehensive Treatment Center for Epilepsy in New York City, Langone, Manhattan. He was not involved in Mr. Boyce's care.
Each year, about one in every 1,000 people with epilepsy dies of this disease. In the United States, there are approximately 2,600 such deaths a year, although neurologists suspect that this figure is undercount.
"This can happen to anyone with epilepsy," said Dr. Devinsky. "Even the first seizure could be the last. The more uncontrolled the seizures, the more severe they are and the more they occur during sleep, the higher the risk. "
About 70% of cases occur during sleep and people often end up facing the bed. Usually, they slept alone. The probable cause of death is that the person stops breathing. A severe seizure may temporarily shut down the brain, including the breathing control centers, Dr. Devinsky said.
"If this happens when a person sleeps and sometimes has a flat epileptic crisis, it's a perfect storm," he said, adding that seizures could also be detrimental to Excitement reflex, which usually forces people to fight breathing and move around if their air intake is blocked.
If someone else is present and can move the person, call and try to wake her up, "it can save your life," said Dr. Devinsky.
The risk of Sudep can not be eliminated, but the patient and his family can do some things to reduce it, said Dr. Devinsky. One is to be extremely vigilant about taking medication to control seizures.
"If you miss a single dose, you can die," he said.
Sleep deprivation can cause seizures, just like alcohol, especially in excess.
Surveillance devices to detect seizures at night – worn on the arm as a watch or under the mattress – can alert a parent or roommate of a problem. But this precaution would not help people living alone. It is unclear whether triggering an alarm in the room could wake up someone who has had a seizure.
"One of the major problems in American health care right now is that doctors do not warn patients about it," said Dr. Devinsky. "The vast majority of families have never heard of this possibility, which is unreasonable. This is something that should interest every patient. "