Cleft lip is a treatable birth defect of the mouth that appears as
one or more splits (clefts) in the upper lip. Cleft lip can range from a small
indentation in the lip (incomplete cleft) to a split in the lip that may extend
up into one or both nostrils (complete cleft), and possibly into the palate.
Cleft lip forms early in fetal development. It can be caused from
genetic factors or maternal environmental exposures during pregnancy, such as
drinking alcohol or using tobacco.
Cleft lip often occurs with cleft palate. These conditions are the
most common birth defects of the head and neck. Cleft lip, whether it occurs
alone or with cleft palate, is more common in males. Most cases of cleft lip
involve only one side of the upper lip and only very rarely occur in the lower
Cleft lip is corrected with surgery, usually within a newborn's
first 3 to 6 months. Depending on the type and severity of the deformity, more
than one surgery may be needed. Sometimes other treatments, such as speech
therapy, are also beneficial. Feeding by bottle or at the breast usually
doesn't require any special measures.
January 19, 2012
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Adam David Schaffner, MD, FACS - Plastic Surgery, Otolaryngology
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