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Diseases reference index «Cleft lip and palate»

Cleft lip and palate are birth defects that affect the upper lip and the roof of the mouth.

Causes

There are many causes for of cleft lip and palate. Problems with genes passed down from one or both parents, drugs, viruses, or other toxins can all cause such birth defects. Cleft lip and palate may occur along with other syndromes or birth defects.

A cleft lip and palate can affect the appearance of one's face, and may lead to problems with feeding and speech, as well as ear infections. Problems may range from a small notch in the lip to a complete groove that runs into the roof of the mouth and nose. These features may occur separately or together.

Risk factors include a family history of cleft lip or palate and other birth defect. About 1 out of 2,500 people have a cleft palate.

Symptoms

A child may have one or more of these conditions at birth.

A cleft lip may be just a small notch in the lip. It may also be a complete split in the lip that goes all the way to the base of the nose.

A cleft palate can be on one or both sides of the roof of the mouth. It may go the full length of the palate.

Other symptoms include:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Change in nose shape (amount of distortion varies)

Problems that may be present because of a cleft lip or palate are:

  • Failure to gain weight
  • Feeding problems
  • Flow of milk through nasal passages during feeding
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Poor growth
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Speech difficulties

Exams and Tests

A physical examination of the mouth, nose, and palate confirms a cleft lip or cleft palate. Medical tests may be done to rule out other possible health conditions.

Treatment

Surgery to close the cleft lip is often done at when the child is between 6 weeks and 9 months old. Surgery may be needed later in life the problem severely affects the nose area. See: Cleft lip and palate repair

A cleft palate is usually closed within the first year of life so that the child's speech normally develops. Sometimes a prosthetic device is temporarily used to close the palate so the baby can feed and grow until surgery can be done.

Continued follow-up may be needed with speech therapists and orthodontists.

Support Groups

For additional resources and information, see cleft palate support group.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Although treatment may continue for several years and require several surgeries, most children with a cleft lip and palate can achieve normal appearance, speech, and eating. However, some people may have continued speech problems.

Possible Complications

  • Dental cavities
  • Displaced teeth
  • Hearing loss
  • Lip deformities
  • Nasal deformities
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Speech difficulties

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Cleft lip and palate is usually diagnosed at birth. Follow the health care provider's recommendations for follow-up visits. Call if problems develop between visits.

Alternative Names

Cleft palate; Craniofacial defect

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