But what happens when Mother Nature goes awry? Her intricate planning somehow gets disrupted. When it does, it may result in something known as congenital birth defects. When something goes wrong as we develop in our mother’s womb, anything can happen, including birthmarks, and several facial birth defects that can range in severity from mild to debilitating.
Listed below are some of the most common problems. Many can be easily treated. Others may require several surgeries and a lifetime of commitment to combat the effects. People with congenital defects also often face psychological challenges. Thus counseling may be a valuable part of treatment.
What are the most common congenital birth defects?
There are many different types of birthmarks ranging in severity from small, discolored patches on the skin to large, growths that cause disfigurement.
Cleft lip and palate
This is the most common facial abnormality. Children may be born with only a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or may have both.
Surgery to repair the problem depends on the severity of the defect. For instance, in the case of a cleft lip, the defect can range from very minor to a complete split of the lip up to the nostril. With a cleft palate, the separation can be very minor or occur from the front to the back of the palate. In some cases, several surgeries will be needed to correct the defects.
Craniofacial birth defects
A person may also be born with an abnormality in the development of the face or skull -- called a craniofacial defect. While most craniofacial defects are limited to the face or head, more complicated cases can affect other parts of the body, causing, as an example, webbed fingers or toes.
Surgery by a highly trained specialist can often help these people gain a more normal appearance and improve any disability caused by the defect.
Abnormalities of the ears can occur alone or along with other birth defects. In any case, the child’s hearing may be affected. Some examples of ear defects include:
In aural atresia,the external ear canal does not develop properly.
Macrodactyly (abnormally sized fingers or toes)
Abnormally sized fingers or toes is known as macrodactyly. This condition can be present immediately at birth, or can develop when a child is one to two years old.
Reconstructive plastic surgery is used to correct this defect, but the treatment depends on your child’s overall health and the individual severity of his or her condition.
Ptosis (drooping eyelid)
This condition may be caused by abnormal muscle development, and may affect one or both eyes. As with the other conditions we’ve discussed, congenital ptosis can occur by itself or as part of a syndrome. Depending on the severity of the condition, this can be treated surgically via blepharoplasty. But children with this condition may have other problems as well, including lazy eye or vision problems.
Syndactyly (webbed fingers or toes)
Syndactyly means your fingers or toes are webbed. If the problem is in your toes, chances are you might not need surgery to correct it. However, if the condition affects the child's hands, surgery may be required to provide proper function.
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