Yellow Semen

Overview

What is yellow semen?

Glands in the male reproductive system make semen. This thick, jelly-like liquid protects sperm, which fertilizes a woman’s egg for conception. Men ejaculate semen during the orgasm part of the sexual response cycle.

Semen (or seminal fluid) is typically white, cream or light gray. But sometimes semen takes on a different hue. Often, this color change isn’t cause for concern. But some health problems can turn semen yellow. If you have yellow semen along with other symptoms, see your healthcare provider.

Possible Causes

What factors increase the risk of yellow semen?

Semen color can change for many reasons. Temporary or permanent causes may give semen a yellowish tint. In these cases, the resulting color change isn’t cause for concern.

You may be more likely to have yellow semen if you:

  • Are older: Semen color naturally changes as you age. It may take on a light yellow hue.
  • Eat certain foods: Coloring or sulfur in certain foods and spices can temporarily turn semen yellow. Turmeric, onions, garlic and asparagus are common culprits. When the foods leave your system, semen should return to its usual white-gray color.
  • Go a while without ejaculating: Practicing abstinence, or going a long time without ejaculating, sometimes results in yellow semen. Old or unused sperm can turn semen yellow.
  • Need to pee: An erection blocks your urine stream, allowing only semen to flow through the urethra. Traces of urine left in the urethra can leak into semen when you ejaculate.
  • Smoke: Nicotine can turn fingernails and skin a yellow-brown color. Smoking does the same thing to semen.
  • Take certain medicines or supplements: As your body breaks down certain antibiotics and vitamins (like vitamin B), semen may take on a yellow-orange tint.

What conditions cause yellow semen?

Some medical conditions cause yellow semen. Problems that can cause yellow semen include:

  • Jaundice: People who have jaundice have too much bilirubin (a waste product) in the blood. This yellow pigment occurs naturally when red blood cells break down. Your liver helps move bilirubin out of your body. Bilirubin can build up in your blood if blood cells break down too quickly or you have a liver disease like hepatitis. Your skin and whites of your eyes take on a yellow color. Semen may also turn yellow.
  • Infections: Bacteria in the prostate gland (often from urinary tract infections (UTIs)) can cause an infection called prostatitis. The infection may change semen to yellow.
  • Pyospermia: Pyospermia (leukocytospermia) occurs when there are many white blood cells in semen. The white blood cells can damage sperm, resulting in a yellow color.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): Chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea and other STDs can give a yellow-green tint to semen.

Care and Treatment

How is yellow semen treated?

You should see your healthcare provider any time you notice unusual body changes like yellow or brownish semen with specks. Brown or speckled semen may indicate blood in semen (hematospermia).

Yellow or brown semen may not be cause for concern. But it could indicate a problem that requires treatment.

Treatments vary depending on the underlying cause. They may include:

  • Antibiotics for infections and certain STDs.
  • Antiviral medications for viral infections.

How can I prevent yellow semen?

These steps may lower your chances of having yellow semen:

When to Call the Doctor

When should I call the doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you have yellow semen and you experience:

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Many factors and conditions can change normally white-gray semen to a yellow color. This color change may be temporary or permanent. Often, yellow semen is nothing to worry about. But sometimes, yellow semen indicates a problem. If you’re not sure why the color changed, see your healthcare provider, especially if you have other symptoms. You may need treatments for a health problem.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/25/2021.

References

  • Britannica. Semen. https://www.britannica.com/science/semen (https://www.britannica.com/science/semen) Accessed 2/27/2021.
  • Black Doctor[jM1] (http://via.ccf.org/health-library/article/60de185e385c552bb441b458#_msocom_1) . What Your Semen Color Says About Your Health. https://blackdoctor.org/what-your-semen-color-says-about-your-health/ (https://blackdoctor.org/what-your-semen-color-says-about-your-health/) Accessed 2/27/2021.
  • Healthy Male Andrology Australia. Ask the Doc: Why Might the Colour of My Semen Change? https://www.healthymale.org.au/why-has-the-colour-of-my-semen-changed (https://www.healthymale.org.au/why-has-the-colour-of-my-semen-changed) Accessed 2/27/2021.
  • International Society for Sexual Medicine. What Might It Mean If a Man’s Semen Changes Color? https://www.issm.info/sexual-health-qa/what-might-it-mean-if-a-mans-semen-color-changes/ (https://www.issm.info/sexual-health-qa/what-might-it-mean-if-a-mans-semen-color-changes/) Accessed 2/27/2021.
  • World Health Organization. WHO laboratory manual for the examination and processing of human semen - 5th ed. Geneva: WHO Press; 2010. [PDF] https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/reproductive-health/srhr-documents/infertility/examination-and-processing-of-human-semen-5ed-eng.pdf?sfvrsn=5227886e_2 (https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/reproductive-health/srhr-documents/infertility/examination-and-processing-of-human-semen-5ed-eng.pdf?sfvrsn=5227886e_2) Accessed 3/11/2021.

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