Anomaly is a medical term which means 'different from normal'. Congenital anomaly refers to such an irregularity which is present from birth. Cleft lip and palate are such abnormalities present from birth that affect the upper lip and the palate of mouth. They represent the most common of all developmental anomalies affecting the head and neck region. Severities of the abnormalities may range from mild, moderate to severe forms occurring separately or in combination with other anomalies.
The frequency of occurrence of cleft lip with or without cleft palate is between 1: 700 to 1: 800 which means that a child is there before born with a cleft somewhere in the world approximately every two and half minutes. There is no single cause for cleft lip and or cleft palate. Often there are many interrelated factors like a change in the genes, consanguineous marriage, viral infections during pregnancy, certain drugs taken during first few weeks of conception, etc.
The condition is evident at birth as loss of continuity of the lip and or an an open communication between nose and mouth. Affected infections present with so many problems other than the detected aesthetics of the face which psychologically affects the parents and the beloved ones. But with the advancement in surgical field, even the severest form of cleft lip / palate can be treated very effectively. Other than the appearance which is evident to anyone who sees the baby, it also suffers problems like missing teeth, extra teeth, abnormal shape, size and location of teeth, growth of middle of face affected, speech difficulties, hearing problems and sometimes even breathing problems especially while feeding. The most important of all is the self-estimated or externally infested poor social image of the affected child. The mother often faces difficulty in breastfeeding feeding or bottle feeding. Because of the continuity of the nose with the mouth and lack of proper lip seal around the breastfeeding / feeding bottle, the fed contents are usually regurgitated and not swallowed by the baby. So it becomes a real mentally painful condition that, although the mother is able to feed the baby, nor the baby is able to swallow.
With regular periodic gynecological consultation, the condition can be diagnosed before birth itself by doing an ultrasound test. Cleft lip and cleft palate is a complex problem which is best managed by a specially trained team of doctors known as cleft lip / palate team. The treatment starts at birth itself.