Cleft lip and cleft palate, also known as orofacial cleft, is a group of conditions that includes cleft lip (CL), cleft palate (CP), and both together (CLP). A cleft lip contains an opening in the upper lip that may extend into the nose. The opening may be on one side, both sides, or in the middle. A cleft palate is when the roof of the mouth contains an opening into the nose. These disorders can result in feeding problems, speech problems, hearing problems, and frequent ear infections. Less than half the time the condition is associated with other disorders.
Cleft lip and palate are the result of tissues of the face not joining properly during development. As such, they are a type of birth defect. The cause is unknown in most cases. Risk factors include smoking during pregnancy, diabetes, obesity, an older mother, and certain medications (such as some used to treat seizures). Cleft lip and cleft palate can often be diagnosed during pregnancy with an ultrasound exam.
A cleft lip or palate can be successfully treated with surgery. This is often done in the first few months of life for cleft lip and before eighteen months for cleft palate. Speech therapy and dental care may also be needed. With appropriate treatment outcomes are good.
Cleft lip and palate occurs in about 1 to 2 per 1000 births in the developed world. CL is about twice as common in males as females, while CP without CL is more common in females. In 2013 it resulted in about 3,300 deaths globally down from 7,600 deaths in 1990. The condition was formerly known as a hare-lip because of its resemblance to a hare or rabbit, but that term is now generally considered to be offensive.