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July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month

Jason Reese

Nationwide, health advocates and organizations observe National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month (NCCAPM) during the month of July. Established by AmeriFace and cleftAdvocate, the observance is intended to increase awareness of all types of cleft and craniofacial defects and to provide programming, education, and support to people impacted by these health conditions.

Cleft and craniofacial abnormalities can arise throughout the life span for a variety of reasons. Most people will immediately think of infants who are born with a cleft lip or palate. In fact, a large portion of cleft or craniofacial conditions are congenital; however, they can also occur as a result of injuries, accidents, burns, and even animal attacks. Diseases of the head, neck, skin, and mouth may also result in craniofacial abnormalities.

Why Do Craniofacial Defects Occur?

Craniofacial conditions arise when the head and skull are being formed in the womb. These conditions can affect both the structure and function of the head and face. It is hard to pin down the causes of cleft and craniofacial defects, but there are a few identified risk factors, including:

  • Having diabetes prior to pregnancy, especially if blood sugar is not controlled during the pregnancy;
  • Smoking prior to becoming pregnant or during the first trimester;
  • Thyroid disease in the mother;
  • Folic acid deficiency during the pregnancy;
  • Taking medications with a link to craniofacial defects.

Zofran is a current medication under fire for possibly causing the development of cleft lip and/or cleft palate in utero. Women who use the fertility medicine, clomiphene citrate, are more likely to birth a child with craniosynostosis (when the joints in the skull close early, before the baby’s brain is fully formed). Other common craniofacial conditions include hemifacial mocrosomia (underdeveloped tissue on one side of face), macrocephaly (disproportionately large head), microcephaly (disproportionately small head), micrognathia (small mandible), and various eye and ear anomalies.

Early Treatment is Key

The American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA) emphasizes the importance of early care for the unique challenges faced by children or individuals with cleft of craniofacial abnormalities. Since breathing and eating are often impacted by these disorders, it is critical to begin addressing them immediately so that the child or adult can undertake basic activities to increase health. Usually a team of specialists is required and can include surgeons (plastic surgeons and craniofacial surgeons), audiologists, nurses, orthodontists, otolaryngologists, pediatric dentists, psychologists, social workers, speech therapists, and pediatricians.

Failure to begin treatment early can create life-long difficulties for those suffering from congenital conditions. Though most craniofacial abnormalities can certainly be addressed later in life, there may be greater residual problems with speech, eating, or breathing. Some conditions may present a ready environment for infections, which may leave the affected individual with additional health problems.

Though many cases of cleft and craniofacial abnormalities are truly no one’s fault, there are instances where a doctor’s failure to inform, educate, or intervene may result in congenital anomalies. If you believe your baby’s condition is a result of medication prescribed to you absent information about the risk of birth defects or if your doctor made costly mistakes in the treatment of your child’s craniofacial condition, you may be eligible for damages that can offset the cost of lengthy medical and therapeutic treatments. Call the attorneys at Wagner Reese for a FREE initial consultation: (888) 204-8440.

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