Cleft palate is usually thought of as a problem of the past by Western people, but very regrettably they are wrong. Cleft palate is alive and well, and is alive even in Western countries. Some preventative measures and corrective surgeries have made cleft palate and cleft lip a thing of the past, but for many millions of people it is a reality they still have to face today. Let’s take a look at what this condition implies, and what we mean when we talk about cleft palate or cleft lips.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are the symptoms of a congenital abnormality, in which a gap or cleft appears when the face is fusing together in the womb. This cleft runs along the palate, and frequently, but not necessarily also affects the lip. This abnormality is incredibly defacing, it is impossible not to notice, and makes eating and speech a lot harder. Cleft lip or palate does not coincide or imply any other abnormality or developmental delay.
Around 1 in 700 children are born with a cleft lip or palate, but many of them have corrective surgeries the moment they are born, thus changing the facial structure early on. This condition used to be called harelip, because the moth resembles the mouth of a hare, but this has been deemed offensive and is no longer in use.
Cleft lip and cleft palate have genetic causes, but the environment you love in can also influence you, and make you develop the condition even if you were not genetically predisposed to it. Certain teratogenic and mutagenic substances, when introduced in vitro can make the fetus be born with a cleft. Hypoxia during pregnancy is usually the cause, and lack of oxygen in the blood as well as maternal smoking are some of the environmental effects that can negatively influence the fetus and cause it to develop a craniofacial cleft.
Genetic causes are very complicated. In the first five to eight weeks the head of the baby is formed. The head is formed from 5 different tissue lobes that interconnect and form the head. Sometimes, the connection is incomplete, and that is where these clefts come from.
As mentioned previously, there is a very simple surgery that can be performed right after birth that can fix the situation. Aside from this, there is also a device called palatal obturator which fits over the cleft and makes eating and speech easier. Cleft palate children frequently have hearing loss or never develop hearing well. If your child is born with a cleft palate, the best thing to do is to get the corrective surgery as soon as possible, and in the meanwhile, invest in a specialized bottle that can feed the baby.
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