Van der Woude syndrome is a genetic form of cleft lip and palate, diagnosed in 1 to 2 percent of children born with those conditions.

Children with Van der Woude syndrome typically have a combination of a cleft lip and/or cleft palate in addition to a pit or slit on both sides of the lower lip. These slits, or depressions, are usually the same on both sides of the mouth, although their appearance can range from very wide to barely noticeable. Saliva will often come out of these slits due to their connection to the drainage of salivary glands beneath the skin.

Cleft lip, palate and the presence of lip pits do not need to occur together for the diagnosis of Van der Woude syndrome. About one-third of patients with these pits in their lower lip do not have an associated cleft lip or palate, and about 10 percent of children who have Van der Woude syndrome do not have lip pits.


The symptoms of van der Woude syndrome may include a combination of the following:

  • Pits near the center of their lower lip which may look wet if they contain cells that create saliva or mucus
  • Small mounds of tissue on their lower lip
  • Cleft lip and/or palate

The pits and mounds vary in size from child to child.


Sometimes, a cleft lip and/or palate may be diagnosed through ultrasound before a baby is born. After birth, clefts can be confirmed, and a genetic test for Van der Woude syndrome can provide a diagnosis.


Because Van der Woude syndrome is a form of cleft lip and palate, children will be treated for those symptoms between six months and one year of age. Treatment for cleft lip and palate involves pre-surgery molding and reconstructive surgery; for more details about those procedures, visit our cleft lip and palate description.

If feeding and breathing issues arise because of Van der Woude syndrome, they can be treated through surgery and specific feeding techniques. If your child has an associated hearing or speech impediment, treatment options can include ear tubes, speech therapy, and dental alignment. Our specialists in craniofacial surgery at the North Carolina Cleft and Craniofacial Center will guide you and your child through diagnosis, treatment and further therapy as needed.