Why semen changes color

Semen is typically whitish-gray in color with a jelly-like texture. This can vary slightly depending on your genes, diet, and overall health.

Unless you’re experiencing other usual symptoms, temporary changes in color usually aren’t cause for concern.

Read to find out what yellow, green, brown, and other colors may mean, when to seek treatment, and more.

clear, white, or grayyellowgreenpinkredbrownorangeblack
heavy metalsxxx
high blood pressurexx
prostate biopsy or surgeryxxxx
prostate, testicular, or urethral cancerxxxx
sexually transmitted disease xxxx
spinal cord injuriesxx
substance usex
urine in semenx
vigorous sex or masturbationxx

Clear, white, or gray semen is considered “normal” or healthy.

Your semen is made up of a variety of minerals, proteins, hormones, and enzymes that all contribute to the color and texture of your semen.

The substances primarily responsible for this color are produced by your prostate gland. This includes:

  • citric acid
  • acid phosphatase
  • calcium
  • sodium
  • zinc
  • potassium
  • protein-splitting enzymes
  • fibrinolysin

Other components are derived from the seminal vesicles, the bulbourethral gland, and the urethral gland.

Yellow or green semen is usually associated with:

Urine in your semen

Urine can get left behind in your urethra — the tube that drains urine out of your bladder — after you pee. This is known as urinary retention.

Semen passing through the urethra can get mixed together with leftover urine, giving your semen a yellowish tint. This is most common if you ejaculate shortly after you pee, and it usually isn’t a cause for concern.

Some causes may require medical attention, including:


Jaundice happens when too much bilirubin builds up in your body. Bilirubin is a yellowish pigment left behind when your liver breaks down red blood cells.

The most common symptom is yellowing or your skin and the whites of your eyes, but it can turn your semen yellow, too.

Other symptoms of jaundice include:

  • chills
  • fever
  • abdominal pain


Leukocytospermia happens when too many white blood cells (leukocytes) are present in your semen. This can tint your semen yellow.

Causes can include:

See a doctor if you suspect leukocytospermia. Some causes, such as chlamydia, can result in infertility if left untreated.

Prostate infection (Prostatitis)

Yellow or yellowish-green sperm can be caused by a prostate infection. This happens when bacteria from your urinary tract gets into your prostate gland.

Other symptoms may include:

  • difficulty peeing
  • pain when peeing
  • feeling the need to pee often
  • lower abdominal pain
  • pain near your rectum
  • pain during ejaculation
  • feeling exhausted
  • fever
  • chills

See your doctor if you suspect prostatitis.

Diet and substance use

Eating foods that contain yellow dyes can turn your semen yellow. Foods high in substances like sulfur, such as onions and garlic, may also have an effect.

Drinking alcohol or using marijuana may also result in a yellowish tinge.

A pink or red tinge is usually a sign of fresh blood. A brownish or orange tinge is typically a sign of older bloodshed. Blood may turn this color after it has been exposed to oxygen.

Bloody semen is known as hematospermia, which is usually associated with:

Prostate biopsy or surgery

A biopsy is done when your doctor takes a tissue sample from your prostate gland.

This involves cutting the tissue, which may introduce blood into your urinary tract or ejaculatory ducts.

Surgery can also cause blood to leak into the area.

Blood can also mix with substances in the prostate that are produced when you ejaculate. These can cause your semen to turn reddish, pinkish, or brownish.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) can cause blood to appear in your semen, especially if it’s not being treated.

In some cases, you may not experience any other symptoms.

If symptoms are present, you may also experience:

  • shortness of breath
  • bloody nose
  • headaches


STDs like herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea can cause blood to appear in your semen.

Other symptoms of these STDs can include:

  • pain or burning while peeing
  • pain or swelling in your testicles
  • unusual yellow or colored discharge from your penis
  • itchy, irritating, or painful rash

Prostate infection (Prostatitis)

If left untreated, prostatitis can also cause bloody semen.

Other symptoms may include:

  • difficulty peeing
  • pain when peeing
  • feeling the need to pee often
  • lower abdominal pain
  • pain near your rectum
  • pain during ejaculation
  • feeling exhausted
  • fever
  • chills

Vigorous sex or masturbation

In some cases, frequent ejaculation can cause blood to appear in your semen.

Not having an orgasm for a long time, or stopping yourself before ejaculation, can also cause blood to get in your semen.

This usually isn’t cause for concern and should resolve within a day or two.

Prostate, testicular, or urethral cancers

In rare cases, bloody semen may be a sign of prostate, testicular, or urethral cancer. These cancers are usually treated successfully, even at late stages.

Other symptoms can include pain or discomfort in your:

  • testicles
  • scrotum
  • lower abdomen
  • lower back
  • genital area

Black semen is usually caused by hematospermia. Black blood is usually old blood that’s been in your body for a long time.

Black semen may also be associated with:

Spinal cord injuries

Injuries to your spinal cord may result in dark brown- or black-colored semen. Although the exact reason unknown, it may have something to do with a seminal vesicle malfunction. These glands produce some substances that make up semen.

If you haven’t already, see a doctor about your injury. They can assess whether it’s causing certain symptoms or if they’re the result of another underlying issue.

Heavy metals

One 2013 study found that high levels of heavy metals — such as lead, manganese, and nickel — in the blood may cause dark-colored semen.

This may result from exposure to contaminated food, water, or other environmental factors.

See a doctor if you suspect exposure.

Healthy semen is typically viscous, or jelly-like.

You may experience slight variances in texture depending on your:

Unless you’re experiencing other unusual symptoms, a temporary change in texture usually isn’t cause for concern.

See a doctor if you experience pain, discomfort, or fatigue along with a drastic change in your semen texture.

These symptoms, along with thickened semen, could be a sign of severe dehydration, hormonal imbalance, or infection.

Watery semen may be a sign of vitamin deficiency or infertility.

Your semen may change color throughout your life, even when you’re in good health.

But if you’re experiencing other unusual symptoms, make an appointment with a doctor or other healthcare provider.

This includes:

  • difficulty or complete inability to urinate
  • heaviness or swelling around your genital area
  • rash or irritation on your penis or scrotum
  • clear or cloudy discharge
  • cold- or flu-like symptoms
  • fever