Cleft Palate and Cleft Lip (cont.)

What Causes a Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate?

In most cases, the cause of cleft lip and cleft palate is unknown. These conditions cannot be prevented. Most scientists believe clefts are due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There appears to be a greater chance of clefting in a newborn if a sibling, parent, or relative has had the problem.

Another potential cause may be related to a medication a mother may have taken during her pregnancy. Some drugs may cause cleft lip and cleft palate. Among them: anti-seizure/anticonvulsant medications, acne medications containing Accutane, and methotrexate, a drug commonly used for treating cancer, arthritis, and psoriasis.

Cleft lip and cleft palate may also occur as a result of exposure to viruses or chemicals while the fetus is developing in the womb.

In other situations, cleft lip and cleft palate may be part of another medical condition.

How Are Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Diagnosed?

Because clefting causes very obvious physical changes, a cleft lip or cleft palate is easy to diagnose. Prenatal ultrasound can sometimes determine if a cleft exists in an unborn child. If the clefting has not been detected in an ultrasound prior to the baby's birth, a physical examination of the mouth, nose and palate confirms the presence of cleft lip or cleft palate after a child's birth. Sometimes diagnostic testing may be conducted to determine or rule out the presence of other abnormalities.

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