Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month

July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month—an observance by people and organizations to help raise awareness of and provide information about cleft and craniofacial defects.

Craniofacial defects are conditions present at birth that affect the structure and function of a baby’s head and face.

The development of the face and facial bones are very intricate. Some defects can occur during early development in utero, which may result in areas of the face being left with gaps. This is called facial clefts, the most common facial cleft that can occur are clefts of the lip, also known as, harelip and clefts of the palate. A cleft lip is a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. While a cleft palate is a split or opening in the roof of the mouth. In many cases the cause of cleft lip or cleft palate is unknown. However, it is believed that clefts occur due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Challenges related to Cleft Lip and/or Palate

  • There is an increased risk of ear infections – there is a high probability that fluid may build-up in the middle ear. If this goes untreated, ear infections could cause hearing loss. To prevent the build up of fluid special tubes are placed in the eardrums to help with the drainage of the fluid.
  • Feeding can be problematic – there are however specially designed baby bottles and nipples that help keep fluids flowing downward toward the stomach.
  • They may have trouble speaking and speech may be difficult to understand – A speech therapist can work with the child to resolve speech difficulties.
  • Dental problems – A greater number of cavities, missing, extra, crooked, or displaced teeth may occur, that will require dental or orthodontic treatments.

Surgery to repair a cleft lip will usually take place in the first few months of the child’s life and is recommended within the first 12 months. Surgery to repair a cleft palate is recommended within the first 18 months. Many children will need additional surgical procedures, as they get older. Surgical repair can improve the look and appearance of a child’s face and might also improve breathing, hearing, and speech and language development. With treatment, most children do well and lead a healthy life.

Did you know that SPAR has donated a portion of the proceeds from registration of the annual SPAR Women’s Race of 2015, to Operation Smile South Africa. They are a non-profit organisation that offers free surgery to repair cleft palates, cleft lips and other facial deformities?

For more on how we can help and to book a session, click here

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