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Cleft Lip and Palate
Cleft lip and cleft palate are facial and oral malformations that occur very early in pregnancy, while the baby is developing inside the mother. Clefting results when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area, and the tissue that is available does not join together properly.
A cleft lip is a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. This separation often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum.
A cleft palate is a split or opening in the roof of the mouth. A cleft palate can involve the hard palate (the bony front portion of the roof of the mouth), and/or the soft palate (the soft back portion of the roof of the mouth).
Cleft lip and cleft palate can occur on one or both sides of the mouth. Because the lip and the palate develop separately, it is possible to have a cleft lip without a cleft palate, a cleft palate without a cleft lip, or both together. In most cases, the cause of cleft lip and cleft palate is unknown. These conditions cannot be prevented. Most scientists believe clefts are due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There appears to be a greater chance of clefting in a newborn if a sibling, parent, or relative has had the problem.
Another potential cause may be related to a medication a mother may have taken during her pregnancy. Some drugs may cause cleft lip and cleft palate. Cleft lip and cleft palate may also occur as a result of exposure to viruses or chemicals while the fetus is developing in the womb. In other situations, cleft lip and cleft palate may be part of another medical condition
Cleft lip/cleft palate can present a number of obstacles for a child, including possible:
- feeding issues
- dental problems
- speech and language difficulties
- hearing impairment
- social and self-esteem challenges
How Are Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Diagnosed?
Because clefting causes very obvious physical changes, a cleft lip or cleft palate is easy to diagnose. Prenatal ultrasound can determine if a cleft exists in an unborn child. Sometimes diagnostic testing may be conducted to determine or rule out the presence of other abnormalities.
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