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Cleft Lip Causes and Treatment

Published on January 16, 2017

A noticeable physical split in the upper lip is known as a cleft lip. Cleft lip is a physical deformation that occurs before the baby is born, meaning that it is a congenital malformation. It occurs due to a shortage of tissue in the lip or mouth area of the child.

Below are some of the main disadvantages of having a cleft lip:

• It affects the overall appearance of the face.
• It leads to a greater risk of ear infections.
• Babies with this condition often experience breastfeeding problems.
• Later in life, it can result in speech-related issues.

Causes of Cleft Lip

Although the causes of a cleft lip aren’t clearly known, below are some of the potential reasons for a baby experiencing this condition:

• Genetic Factors: The majority of the scientists and doctors believe that cleft lip is a result of genetic factors. This means that if there is a history of this condition in the family, the chances of a baby being born with it are higher.

• Medication Taken During Pregnancy: Drugs such as acne medication (containing Accutane), anticonvulsant or anti-seizure drugs, or drugs used for treating cancer, psoriasis, and arthritis during pregnancy could potentially cause a baby to be born with a cleft lip.

• Environmental Factors: Another key cause behind this deformity is environmental factors such as exposure to toxic chemicals and viruses that could possibly interfere with the growth and development of the fetus.

Treatment of Cleft Lip

Those who have a cleft lip could experience a series of medical problems such as those related to hearing, eating, breathing, and talking. As such, it is important to get this condition treated as soon as possible.

A cleft lip may demand a single or double surgery, and this usually depends on the amount of repair needed in a specific case. The first of these surgeries is performed by the doctors when the baby is at least 10 weeks old. The surgeries done at a later stage are focused on correcting the jaw, mouth, and upper-lip alignment. This helps in enhancing the lip and nose shape.

The cupid’s bow – the curving shape of the upper lip – may be disrupted by the cleft lip, and with surgery, this region can be reshaped and formed properly. The cleft itself must also be closed carefully in order to create a smooth transition between both sides of the upper lip. This leaves a scar, which is minimized as much as possible during and after treatment.

In many cases, the appearance of a baby’s nose is also affected by a cleft lip. To correct this issue, it is important for the plastic surgeon to consider the proper proportionate length of the columella, the area of external skin between the nostrils. Nostril symmetry must also be created, and the nasal tip’s angle may need to be adjusted to create proper proportions.

Thanks to surgery, the majority of patients born with a cleft lip end up achieving normal speech and eating functionalities, along with a restored facial appearance.

Learn More During a Consultation

Dr. Morwood has over 20 years’ experience as a plastic surgeon, he is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, he is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and for years he has served as either the chief or vice chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery of Monterey.

For more information about Dr. Morwood or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact us here.

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