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Cleft Palate - An overview

A cleft palate is a condition seen in newborn babies. It is an opening or a split in the roof of the mouth of the baby. It is an oral malformation that occurs during second and third months of pregnancy. These isolated birth defects are often related to genetic conditions.

Causes of Cleft Palate

Cleft palate is caused when the tissues in the baby's mouth do not develop properly. Most scientists believe that such conditions occur due to a combination of a genetic syndrome and environmental factors. Another possible factor could be the medication taken by the mother during pregnancy that may result in this condition of the baby.

The possible factors may include family history, race, gender, diabetes or obesity during pregnancy. There are possibilities that it may occur due to exposure to viruses or chemicals while the fetus is developing in the womb. However, a definitive cause has not been discovered yet.

Symptoms of Cleft Palate

The cleft palate is a split or opening in the baby's mouth. The signs and symptoms of cleft palate include:

  • Difficulty in eating and swallowing food and liquids
  • Nasal voice, trouble with speech
  • Chronic ear infections or impaired hearing
  • Dental problems

Diagnosis of Cleft Palate

There are no special tests required to diagnose, as the cleft palate is noticed at birth. But in order to determine the condition before birth, doctors may conduct a prenatal ultrasound in the beginning of the 13th week of pregnancy. If a cleft is diagnosed, the doctor may ask the mother to undergo a test where a sample of the amniotic fluid from the uterus is taken . This test will determine if the fetus has inherited a genetic syndrome.

Treatments of Cleft Palate

The cleft palate treatment can only be done through a surgery that is done by a team of experts. The initial cleft palate surgery will be conducted when the baby is 18 months of age and the follow-up surgeries will be done between 2 years and 18 years.

In general, the entire surgical process will include cleft palate repair, ear tube surgery, dental surgery and surgery to reconstruct the appearance of the mouth. Various therapies will also be given to improve speech and hearing. These surgeries will help in improving the child's ability to eat, breathe and talk.

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