Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Saving Face

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Saving Face

Article excerpt

CLEFT LIP AND PALATE IS RELATIVELY COMMON BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT ACTUALLY MEANS? LIZ CONNOR FINDS OUT MORE

AFFECTING around one in every 700 babies, cleft lip and palate is the most common facial birth defect in the UK.

Despite this, many of us remain in the dark about what a 'cleft' actually is, and the potential health complications that could develop if a child doesn't have access to the right treatment.

Here, we take a closer look...

WHAT EXACTLY IS A 'CLEFT'? A CLEFT lip usually occurs when the structures that form the upper lip or palate fail to join together during foetal development in the womb.

Clefts can involve either or both the lip and the roof of the mouth, and some babies may be affected by two separate clefts.

Clefts are a pretty common birth difference. Susannah Schaefer, CEO of the international cleft charity Smile Train (smiletrain.org) says globally, there are over 200,000 new babies estimated to be born with clefts every year.

"The vast majority of these children are from developing countries and many of them will never receive the reconstructive surgery and comprehensive cleft care they need to live full and productive lives," she says.

WHAT CAUSES A CLEFT LIP OR PALATE? THERE'S no conclusive medical reason why some children are affected by the condition, and often it's a mystery that happens out of the blue. But Susannah says most experts agree that the causes of cleft are multi-factorial.

Risk factors may include genes/ family history, drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy, smoking during pregnancy, maternal illness or infections, or lack of nutrition during pregnancy.

However, while these things may sometimes play a role, Susannah says that in many cases, the causes of cleft lip and palate remain largely unknown, and research is ongoing to better understand the condition. …

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