Yellow Semen: 6 Common Causes (& What It Means)

Updated in October 2023

Yellow semen is not a serious finding in most cases, although there are some conditions that can permanently make semen more yellow, like dehydration, sexually transmitted infections or liver problems. 

Healthy semen typically presents with a white or gray color. However, some factors like diet changes or lifestyle changes can also cause it to change color, giving it a more yellow or green tinge.

If your yellow semen lasts for several days, or if you have other symptoms like pain with urination, intense penile itching or penile redness, you should see a doctor for assessment and treatment as necessary. 

Imagem ilustrativa número 1

The most common causes of yellow semen are:

1. Eating processed food

Most processed food contains food coloring that can alter the color of many bodily fluids, especially sperm. Excessive intake of these products can lead to a temporary change in semen color.

Some men may also notice a change to semen smell after eating foods that are high in sulfuric acid, like onion or garlic. 

What to do: Changes in color usually resolve on their own following ejaculation. Men usually do not present with any other symptoms, and therefore this is not a serious finding.

2. Dehydration

Although changes to semen color is a less common symptoms of dehydration, it it possible to notice color changes with decreased water intake. 

Before noticing yellow semen, however, men will often present with other symptoms of dehydration first, like dark urine, decreased urine output, and foul-smelling urine. 

What to do: If you suspect that the yellow semen is related to dehydration, be sure to increase your daily fluid intake and to incorporate more water-rich foods into your diet. 

3. Urine in semen

Urine in the semen can make the sperm appear yellow. This can happen due to a residual amount of urine in the urethra after urination that is followed by ejaculation. It can also be a sign of urinary retention due to a blockage in the urethra, preventing urine from passing completely and mixing with the semen during ejaculation.

Some causes that can contribute to the presence of urine in semen and yellowish sperm are UTIs, prostatitis, prostate enlargement or bladder obstruction.

What to do: Urine in semen is usually not a cause for concern. However, if it is frequent or accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, burning or difficulty urinating, a weak urine stream, fever, cloudy urine or blood in the urine or sperm, a urologist should be consulted to identify the underlying cause and to start treatment as necessary.

3. Sexually-transmitted infections

This is the most common cause of persistently yellow semen, and it generally indicates the presence of pus in the semen. This can occur with infections like chlamydia or gonorrhea. STIs are more common in men who have more than one sexual partner and who engage in unprotected sex. 

In addition to yellow semen, men may also notice symptoms like burning with urination, genital itching, urinary frequency or even fever for no apparent reason. 

What to do: STIs require treatment with specific antibiotics. Therefore, you should seek medical attention if you suspect you have an STI, so that the appropriate treatment can be started. Learn more about the most common STIs and how they are treated.

4. Prostate abnormalities

Prostate inflammation or a prostate infection can increase white blood cell levels in the blood. These increased levels can also appear in semen, giving it a more yellow color. Other common symptoms of a prostate problem include pain with urination, rectal pain, fatigue, fever and chills. 

What to do: You should see your doctor if you think you may have a prostate problem. The doctor will order specific testing to help identify any underlying conditions and start treatment as necessary.

5. Liver problems 

Changes to liver functioning (due to conditions like hepatitis or from medications) can cause yellow semen. A malfunctioning liver is unable to effectively eliminate excess bilirubin, which starts to accumulate within the body tissues and cause jaundice. 

People with jaundice usually present with yellow skin or eyes, but semen can also turn yellow due to the presence of bilirubin. Check-out other liver disease symptoms that can occur with hepatic problems.

What to do: You should see your doctor to rule out other problems that could cause changes to sperm color. If the doctor suspects a liver issue, then he or she may order additional testing or refer you to a specialist.