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Cleft lip and palate
DefinitionCleft lip and palate are congenital abnormalities (present at birth) that affect the upper lip and the hard and soft palate of the mouth. Features range from a small notch in the lip to a complete fissure (groove) extending into the roof of the mouth and nose. These features may occur separately or together.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Cleft lip and palate are facial may occur in association with other syndromes or birth defects. There are numerous causes for these birth defects, including mutant genes inherited from one or both parents and teratogens (drugs, viruses, or other toxins that can cause abnormalities in a developing fetus).
As well as being disfiguring, these abnormalities can cause feeding difficulties, problems with speech development, and ear infections.
Risk factors include a family history of cleft lip or palate and presence of another birth defect. The incidence of cleft lip and palate varies with different races; approximately 1 out of 1,000 Caucasians are affected. The incidence of cleft palate alone is 1 out of 2,500 people.
Signs and tests
A physical examination of the mouth, nose and palate confirms the presence of cleft lip or cleft palate. Diagnostic testing may be performed to determine or rule out the presence of other abnormalities.
Treatment of cleft lip and palate requires a team approach and involves several specialties, including plastic surgeons, orthodontics, speech therapists and others. Treatment may extend over a period of several years.
Support GroupsFor additional resources and information, see cleft palate support group .
Although treatment may extend over several years and require several surgeries depending upon the involvement, most children affected by this disorder can achieve normal appearance, speech, and eating. For some, speech problems may continue.
Calling your health care provider
Cleft lip and palate is usually diagnosed at birth. Follow the health care provider's recommendations for follow-up visits. Call if problems arise between visits.
Update Date: 12/27/2002Hebe Molmenti, M.D., Ph.D., Private Practice specializing in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT