'Grey's Anatomy' Shows Freaky HPV Effects on Men

Jeanne Sager

Grey's AnatomyThanks to all those "The One" commercials, HPV has become a major talking point in women's health. But until Thursday night's Grey's Anatomy episode, no one has really talked about what the sexually transmitted disease can do to a man's body.

And boy did they ever talk about it. SPOILER ALERT.

In an episode that was all about fear, a man terrified of showing his face in public couldn't have been a better fit.

So why wouldn't he go outside (or get out of the car at Seattle Grace Hospital)? Because HPV warts had left him looking like that tree man that they make Discovery Channel specials about.

The show's title, "Superfreak," just highlights how scary the whole thing is for the sufferer.

So how real was it?

Although hyped for TV -- this guy had an extra immune issue going on that caused the warts of the human papillomavirus to run rampant on his body -- men develop warts from the disease just like women.

Generally there are fewer of them, and there are men who remain completely asymptomatic, so there's no warning sign for women who are going to have sexual contact with a guy that they could be contracting something. If they do appear, they're generally on the penis, but they can spread as far back as the anus (which is why guys are at risk for anal and penile cancers from HPV -- just like the ladies risk cervical and vulvar cancer from the disease).

In guys, just like in women, the warts can migrate from the genitals to the throat and cause recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP), blocking the airway and making breathing difficult, which the CDC lists as rare. But it can cause cancer there too -- the CDC estimates about 25 percent of mouth and 35 percent of throat cancers are caused by HPV.

Let's face it -- you don't have to look like the tree man to be freaked about little bumps on your junk. HPV is scary for guys too.

Want to complicate the whole thing further? While women's HPV can get picked up during their pap smear, there is no official approved test for HPV in men. And although condoms can help, they don't completely protect anyone from HPV -- men or women.

So what's a guy to do? If he's under 26, he can get his own shot of Gardasil -- the FDA has now approved it for men.

Did you know HPV affected men too?

Image via ABC

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