July is National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month. It is a time to raise awareness of cleft and craniofacial conditions, which affect thousands of people in the United States each year.
What are Craniofacial Disorders?
Craniofacial disorders are abnormalities of the face or head, caused by a birth defect, disease or trauma (Mayo Clinic). These disorders range in severeness and are most commonly present at birth (congenital).
Types of Craniofacial disorders (Boston Children’s Hospital):
Cleft lip and palate: a separation in the lip and the palate
Craniosynostosis: premature closure of the soft spots in an infant’s skull
Hemifacial microsomia: a condition in which the tissues on one side of the face are underdeveloped
Vascular malformation: an abnormal growth composed of blood vessels
Hemangioma: a benign tumor that causes a red birthmark
Causes of Craniofacial Disorders
Research has found, there is no single cause of craniofacial disorders, but rather many factors may play a role to their development. These factors include:
Genetics: A gene or combination of genes from one or both parents may cause craniofacial disorders.
Folic acid deficiency: Studies found women who do not get sufficient folic acid during pregnancy may be at higher risk of having a baby with certain craniofacial disorders, such as cleft lip and palate. Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps make DNA and other genetic material. It can be found in leafy greens, eggs, and citrus fruits.
Environmental: Exposure to different substances, including cigarettes, alcohol, or certain medications, while pregnant, may increase a baby’s risk of cleft lip and palate.
Each year in the United States, approximately 2,600 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,400 babies are born with a cleft lip, with or without a cleft palate (CDC). It is important to learn about craniofacial disorders, as those suffering from craniofacial disorders and other conditions of the head and face, often endure impaired ability to feed, impaired language development, and increased risk of ear infections, hearing issues, and problems with their teeth. Diagnoses and treatment for these disorders depends on each individual’s condition and is typical treated by a pediatric neurosurgeon, craniofacial surgeon, or craniofacial anomalies team.
1. “Announcement: National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month - July 2015.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6425a5.htm.
2. “Cleft and Craniofacial Clinic.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 30 Apr. 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/departments-centers/cleft-craniofacial-mayo-clinic/sections/overview/ovc-20511135.
3. “Craniofacial Anomalies.” Boston Children's Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions/craniofacial-anomalies.
4. “July Is National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month.” Community Health of Central Washington, Community Health of Central Washington, https://www.chcw.org/national-cleft-craniofacial-awareness-and-prevention-month/.