While semen is typically a whitish-gray color, there are some instances when semen may appear as a different color, which is commonly yellow.
Sometimes producing an unusual colored semen is a once-only occurrence. Other times, a man may notice a more consistent change in the color of his semen.
Although this occurrence is not always a cause for concern, there are some instances when semen color change can be an indicator of an underlying medical condition.
Semen as a substance is a combination of secretions from the male reproductive glands as well as sperm. Changes and disruption to these areas are what cause color changes.
The following are responsible for semen production:
- Epididymis and testicles: The testicles are the organs responsible for producing sperm. The epididymis is the tube that transports sperm from the testicles to the vas deferens.
- Seminal vesicles: These produce a significant portion of the semen’s volume. These glands produce secretions that are high in a sugar called fructose, which provides nutrients to the sperm.
- Prostate gland: This gland produces a chemical called prostate-specific antigen (PSA) that causes a reaction in the gel-like semen, allowing the sperm to swim away and reach an available egg more easily.
- Bulbourethral and urethral glands: These glands are responsible for producing secretions that make it easier for semen to travel along the reproductive tract.
Each of these parts of the male reproductive organs and glands plays a role in ejaculation.
Although semen is usually a whitish-gray color, some men may have sperm that is yellow.
However, if yellow semen represents a significant color change for a man, this could be cause for concern.
Some potential causes associated with yellow semen include:
- Urine in the semen: Semen travels through the urethra, which is the same tube that urine travels through. It is possible that some yellow-tinted urine can mix with semen, which would give semen a yellow tint or cast.
- Jaundice: This results when the liver has difficulty breaking down bilirubin, a by-product of red blood cell destruction. Jaundice most commonly causes yellowing of the eyes but can cause the skin and the semen to appear yellow too.
- Abnormally high white blood cells: Inflammation can produce excess white blood cells. These can be released via the semen, a condition known as pyospermia or leukocytospermia. Additional white blood cells can cause semen to appear yellow. These can be the result of an infection.
- STIs: A sexually transmitted infection, such as chlamydia, herpes, or gonorrhea may cause yellow semen. In this instance, a man’s semen may also have an unpleasant smell.
- Dietary changes: Eating foods that contain dyes can cause yellow semen. The smell of ejaculate may also change if a man eats strong-smelling foods, such as garlic, onions, asparagus, or broccoli.
- Infrequent ejaculation: If a man has not ejaculated in some time; the semen is more likely to have mixed with urine.
While semen that is light yellow is not usually a cause for concern, there are instances when a man should see a doctor for yellow semen, especially when the semen is a dark yellow.
If a man has other symptoms, such as yellowing skin, fever, the semen smells foul, or he experiences pain when ejaculating, he should see his doctor.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. If an infection has caused yellow semen, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics or anti-viral medications.
If a man does have yellow sperm that is consistent with a possible infection, he should refrain from sexual contact until a doctor can examine him for infections. Otherwise, he could potentially pass on an infection to his partner.
A man may also try to reduce the amount of artificial dyes in his diet. Drinking more water can also help.
Semen can be other colors too. Some other potential color changes a man may notice include:
- Brown or red: Sometimes a man can experience a leak, or a blood vessel may burst around the seminal vesicles. The release of blood can cause semen to take on a brown or red appearance. If the semen continues to be red after 1 to 2 days, a man should seek medical treatment.
- Green-tinted: Green-tinted semen can indicate a potential infection of the prostate or surrounding tissues. A man who has green semen may need to see his doctor.
If a man notices something out of the ordinary, or his semen remains discolored for an extended period, he should contact his doctor who can diagnose the potential cause and provide peace of mind.
It is not completely abnormal for a man to produce semen that varies in color, texture, and even smell. The presentation can vary based on a man’s diet, activities, and the amount of time since he last ejaculated.
Yellow-tinted semen does not necessarily mean there is cause for concern. However, dark yellow semen that smells foul or is accompanied by other symptoms of infection or medical problems should not be ignored.