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Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate

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Symptoms of Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate

Most babies born with cleft lip/cleft palate are diagnosed visually, as the symptoms of the birth defects are the characteristic facial deformities they create. In rare cases, a baby has a variation of the birth defect called a submucous cleft palate, meaning that the palate is split underneath the lining of the roof of the mouth, making the cleft invisible. A submucous cleft palate is not usually detected immediately since it can’t be seen.

The symptoms of submucous cleft palate may include:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Recurring ear infections

More typically, a baby born with cleft lip/cleft palate is diagnosed immediately and receives a recommended treatment plan that will likely include surgery within weeks or months of birth.

While awaiting surgery, the family will be counseled on the various difficulties the child may encounter:

  • Difficulty feeding, especially breastfeeding
  • Repeated ear infections (which in some cases may lead to hearing loss)
  • Dental problems
  • Delays in speech development
  • Emotional issues, especially as the child gets older

Children with cleft lip/cleft palate should be evaluated by a multidisciplinary Craniofacial Program at a major medical center, where the many health professionals a child will need can participate in a unified treatment plan.

Find out more about the Craniofacial Program at the Weill Cornell Medicine Pediatric Otolaryngology service.

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Reviewed by Vikash Modi, MD
Last reviewed/last updated: January 2019