Common Diseases

People who are homeless have more diseases and chronic illnesses compared to those who have stable housing. Understanding these illnesses and conditions will help support access to needed health care. Knowing this information about the signs and symptoms of diseases should lead to effective conversations with health care providers like doctors, nurses, and emergency services.

Here is a list of diseases commonly experienced by people who are homeless and their main signs and symptoms and a link to a sheet that can be used to remember these:

Commonly Experienced Diseases – Signs and Symptoms

Chronic Obstructive  Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Shortness of breath; wheezing; chest tightness; chronic cough; mucus expelled when coughing; blueness of lips or fingernail beds; frequent respiratory infections; unintended weight loss; swelling in ankles; headaches; fatigue

Hepatitis C
Sore muscles; fatigue; joint pain; fever; nausea; not eating; stomach pain; itchy skin; dark urine; jaundice

Unusual thirst; extreme fatigue; blurred vision; recurring infections; cuts and bruises slow to heal; tingling or numbness in hands/feet; weight change

Lung Cancer
Lingering cough; coughing up blood; chest pain; hoarseness; weight loss; not eating; new onset of wheezing; recurring infections like pneumonia or bronchitis; bone pain

Respiratory Disease/ Failure
Difficulty breathing; coughing up mucus; wheezing; rapid breathing; fatigue; confusion; anxiety;

Congestive Heart Failure
Shortness of breath when lying down; fatigue; weakness; swelling in legs, ankles or feet; rapid or irregular heartbeat; persistent cough; wheezing; blood-tinged phlegm; swelling of abdomen; rapid weight gain; difficulty concentrating; not eating;  nausea

Persistent cough; coughing up blood; chest pain when coughing; fatigue; fever; night sweats; chills; weight loss; not eating

Liver Disease
Jaundice, bleeding from rectum, mouth, and nose; not eating; memory loss; confusion; fluid in the legs; difficulty with balance; prominent veins; tiredness; abdominal pain and swelling; vomiting