"I'm a 46-year-old woman, and I'm getting terrible burning and itching in my hands and feet. There is no redness and no infection is apparent. What could it be?"

Dr Fred Kavalier answers your health question:

There is a long list of possible causes of burning and itching sensations in the hands and the feet. The first thing is to establish whether or not there is a rash. Skin infections and infestations, such as scabies, can cause intense itching. If you examine your skin carefully enough, you will always see some evidence of scabies in the form of small red bumps or lines, particularly between the fingers and around the wrists.If there is definitely no sign of skin inflammation, the next thing to think about is a possible drug side-effect. Are you taking any medications (either prescribed by a doctor or bought over the counter) that might have this as a side effect? Don't forget to consider herbal and alternative remedies - these too can have unusual side-effects.If it's not drugs or remedies, it may be a condition called peripheral neuropathy. This is caused by nerve damage, and it typically causes symptoms in the "glove and stocking areas". Peripheral neuropathies may be related to diabetes and vitamin deficiencies (vitamin B12 deficiency is certainly worth considering), and to lots of other medical conditions, including tumours and inflammatory diseases.I don't think you should ignore your symptoms. They are certainly worth investigating further, before anything more serious develops. As a first step, see your doctor and ask for some basic investigations, such as blood and urine tests.

Please mail your questions for Dr Fred to health@independent.co.uk. He regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.

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