Human disease genes show enormous variation in their allelic spectra; that is, in the number and population frequency of the disease-predisposing alleles at the loci. For some genes, there are a few predominant disease alleles. For others, there is a wide range of disease alleles, each relatively rare. The allelic spectrum is important: disease genes with only a few deleterious alleles can be more readily identified and are more amenable to clinical testing. Here, we weave together strands from the human mutation and population genetics literature to provide a framework for understanding and predicting the allelic spectra of disease genes. The theory does a reasonable job for diseases where the genetic etiology is well understood. It also has bearing on the Common Disease/Common Variants (CD/CV) hypothesis, predicting that at loci where the total frequency of disease alleles is not too small, disease loci will have relatively simple spectra.