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Why it varies and what it means

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Why it varies and what it means

Healthy semen is a cloudy white color with a jelly consistency similar to a raw egg. Slight changes in semen color, texture, and even smell might be normal and should no pose concern.

In some cases, semen color changes could be a sign of an underlying issue. Possible reasons include blood in the semen or infections, both of which require medical attention.

This article explores changes in semen color and texture, their causes, and what this may mean.

Semen is an important part of the male reproductive system. Semen contains sperm, but it is a complex liquid that contains other substances. A 2016 study notes that healthy semen contains:

These compounds help sperm grow and protect it from environmental factors.

Normal, healthy semen will be a cloudy white or gray liquid with a consistency similar to raw egg or a runny jelly. It will also have an alkaline smell comparable to bleach. Variations in semen content may slightly alter these characteristics.

The semen may also change as it mixes with other substances in the seminal fluid. This may include blood, pus, urine, or other liquids within the reproductive system or urethra.

There are different reasons for changes in semen color. A person’s symptoms and their semen color may indicate the underlying cause.

Red or pink

A pink, red, or brown tint within semen can be worrying and generally indicates blood in the semen. Doctors may refer to this as hematospermia. A 2017 review notes that there are several common causes for this condition, though many are relatively harmless.

There are some cases where blood in the semen can signify an underlying issue.

Burst blood vessel

A burst blood vessel may allow small amounts of blood to mix with the semen, causing changes in semen color. This color may range from pink or reddish in fresh blood, or slightly brown if the blood is older.

Blood vessels in the area may also break from injury, vigorous sex, or masturbation. If these symptoms go away and there are no other issues, it should pose no further problems.

Infection

Some infections may cause blood to mix with the semen, which changes its color depending on how fresh the blood is. People should also look out for other signs of infection.

Prostate issues

Some prostate issues may also alter the consistency or color of the semen. Prostate complications that could trigger these changes include:

High blood pressure

Complications from high blood pressure may cause disruptions in several systems in the body. In the reproductive system, it may allow blood into the semen, which can change the color.

Brown or black

Reasons why semen color may appear brown or black include:

Trauma and heavy bleeding

Dark brown or black semen may be a sign of heavier bleeding or blood that has been in the body for longer periods of time. This may occur due to a heavy injury, such as a spinal cord injury or trauma in the genitals.

Sometimes, spinal cord injuries may occur without heavy bleeding and may still turn semen dark.

Metals

High levels of heavy metals in the body and blood may lead to dark semen in some cases. A 2013 article found that the blood of people with dark-colored semen was rich in heavy metals, such as manganese, lead, and nickel.

This may be due to exposure to contaminated food, water, or other environmental factors.

Yellow to green

Reasons why semen may appear yellow or green include:

Infection

Semen color ranging from yellow to green could be due to a urinary tract infection or sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. The semen may also have a foul odor.

Infrequent ejaculation

Semen with a yellow tint may be a sign of infrequent ejaculation. The semen may have had more time to sit and mix with other compounds that make it change color.

Dietary changes

Semen may change color if it mixes with certain vitamins or medications. If a color change is the only symptom and goes away, it should pose no further problems.

Foods containing dyes may also alter semen color in some cases. The smell of ejaculate may also change if a person eats strong-smelling foods, such as garlic, onions, asparagus, or broccoli.

Urine

Semen may also mix with drops of urine from the urethra. This could give the semen a yellowish appearance. Again, this is generally not a cause for concern.

Jaundice

Jaundice occurs when the liver leaves too much bilirubin in the body. This is a natural yellow pigment created when the body breaks down red blood cells. While it causes yellowing of the skin, jaundice may also change the color of semen.

High white blood cell count

Having too many white blood cells in the semen may also change its color, making it more yellow. This may be a secondary effect from another condition, such as a urinary infection, prostate infection, or STI. In some cases, it may be a sign of an autoimmune disorder.

Click here to learn more about why semen may appear yellow.

Along with alterations in color, changes in texture can also worry some people. These texture changes can vary based on different factors.

Normal, healthy semen may have variations in texture and might be slightly more thick or watery due to factors such as:

  • diet
  • lifestyle choices such as activity levels
  • alcohol use
  • drug use

A temporary change in semen texture should not generally cause concern. Even simple issues, such as temporary dehydration, may lead to thicker semen in the short term.

However, texture changes that occur alongside other semen issues, such as a foul odor or color change, may be a sign to see a doctor.

Some reasons for a color change in semen should not be a cause for concern and will not require medical attention. However, if these changes are ongoing and accompany other symptoms, such as a foul odor, or prolonged hematospermia, a person can consult with a doctor.

If a person notices any signs of prostate issues, they should also see a doctor. These may include difficulty urinating, swelling in the genital and pelvic region, experiencing pressure in the colon, or constantly feeling the need for a bowel movement.

Early detection and treatment will likely give the best chance of treating the underlying issue.

Normal semen is generally a clear, white, or gray color. Changes in its color may be temporary and may resolve without medical treatment.

However, if people experience changes in semen that do not go away or come with other symptoms, such as infection or inflammation, they should seek medical attention.

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