Most of us are not familiar with craniofacial conditions beyond the commercials on public television asking for sponsorship of a child in an eastern European or Southeast Asian country. Few people are aware of the lifelong physical and emotional results patients experience, nor the preventative measures you’re able to take.
Cleft and craniofacial conditions affect thousands of infants, children, teens and adults in the United States each year. Some are born with congenital anomalies like cleft lip and palate, others with more complex, life-threatening craniofacial conditions. Some are burned; others are injured in accidents and animal attacks, or diagnosed with various oral/head/neck and skin diseases. Children with certain craniofacial defects can have a greater risk for physical, learning, developmental, or social challenges, or a mix of these. Craniofacial defects have significant effects on families and the health care system
•CDC recently estimated that each year in the United States, about 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate.
•Isolated orofacial clefts, or clefts that occur with no other major birth defects, are one of the most common types birth defects in the United States.
Certain types of cleft palate (such as bifid uvula ) might not be diagnosed until later in life, and genetic mutations that cause cleft lip and cleft palate are not preventable. However, women can take certain precautions to prevent environmental exposures that may increase the risk of having a child born with cleft and craniofacial anomalies.
•Make sure your immunizations are up-to-date before you become pregnant.
•Eat properly and take prenatal vitamins with folic acid, as instructed by your doctor, before and during pregnancy. Folic acid deficiency causes facial clefts in laboratory animals, leaving researchers with good reason to focus on folic acid in cleft studies.
•Don’t smoke, use illegal drugs, or consume alcohol while pregnant.
Most of these are standard practice in pregnant women but exercising the appropriate caution & extra measures could save individuals & their families years of physical and emotional stress.
You can read the success story of a former EIOH patient, his and his family’s clef-lip experience here, more inspirational stories in the 2014 issue of Copendium & the legacy of former patient Kory Rauscher on the EIOH blog, Word of Mouth. Issues of Coendium are available for perusal in the library as well as resources for a request a literature search for yourself, or reliable and appropriate healthcare information for your patients and their families.