The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has today issued new guidelines for nurses and health advisers on how to treat adults with faecal incontinence.
Involuntary loss of stools affects up to one in 10 people at some point during their lives.
In partnership with the National Collaborating Centre for Acute Care, NICE are calling for nurses and other healthcare professionals to actively address this problem in high-risk groups such as the elderly, new mothers or those with neurological disease.
The guidelines state that patients should undergo a full assessment including a medical history check in order to unearth the causes of faecal incontinence.
Nurses should advise patients on changing their diet and fluid intake and establishing a regular bowel routine.
Patients who are keen travellers should also be advised on how to plan their journeys and introduced to the idea of a toilet access card for emergency situations.
It is hoped that the guidelines will encourage confidence in talking about faecal incontinence and reassure patients that their symptoms will be taken seriously.
Peter Littlejohns, executive lead of the guidelines, said: "Faecal incontinence has remained a largely hidden problem, with many individuals feeling too embarrassed to admit their symptoms to healthcare professionals, or even family and friends.
"This guideline will encourage patients to be more confident talking about faecal incontinence so that healthcare professionals can diagnose the cause and offer the most appropriate support and treatment."