Causes and Effects of a Cleft Lip and Palate

A cleft lip is a craniofacial abnormality that affects a small percentage of newborn babies. Some cases have a determinate cause while others are less clear. Medical science is working to better understand the defects so that more services can be offered to both prevent and treat these conditions. Learning more about craniofacial issues will help you recognize what care is necessary for a child with a cleft lip or palate.

Possible Causes 

Unfortunately, it’s still difficult to determine what exactly may cause the lip separation that happens during the first trimester. Genetics play a part in some cases, but the majority of instances have no connection to family history. Various studies have indicated that certain genes are associated with the possible defects, and drug and alcohol abuse may increase the likelihood of craniofacial disorders. Researchers continue gathering information to assist doctors and preventive services.

Effects on a Child’s Health 

A baby can be born with a cleft lip, palate or both. Each issue is serious, though the abnormal palate can have a greater effect on a number of the baby’s developmental capacities, including:

  • Feeding
  • Speaking
  • Hearing

While a child with a cleft lip does not generally struggle to eat, a cleft in the hard palate is much more difficult to manage; the separated palate makes it much harder for a baby to get enough suction while nursing.

In terms of speaking and hearing, separation in the soft palate damages important muscles needed for proper speech, while also increasing the likelihood of liquid gathering behind the eardrum. Both issues must be addressed to avoid speech impediments and a heightened risk for ear infections.

Doctors and surgeons are using more and more advanced treatments for combating these issues, but there’s still a long way to go. Donating to research services can go a long way in helping to understand the causes and prevent future cases.