What to Know About Yellow Semen

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on August 12, 2022
4 min read

The human body is complex. And that can make it hard to know what’s normal and what's a cause for concern — especially when there's not always a clear answer. 

This is often the case when it comes to the question of whether yellow semen is normal. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer as it depends on many factors.

Typically, semen or seminal fluid is white, gray, or cream-colored. Various factors can alter the shade, such as your lifestyle, health, and genetics. Sometimes yellow semen can be normal, but it depends on how yellow your semen is and other accompanying symptoms. 

If your semen is a little yellow, that can be perfectly normal and caused by many benign things like certain foods or vitamins. However, if you have bright or dark yellow tinted semen, that may be more of a cause for concern.

There are multiple benign factors that may cause your semen to look yellow, which include:

  • Your age. Semen naturally changes shades throughout your life and as you age.
  • Certain medications or supplements. Some antibiotics, like Rifampicin for tuberculosis and phenazopyridine for urinary tract infections, may cause yellow-orange urine and semen. Vitamin B supplements may turn urine and semen neon yellow. 
  • Certain foods. Food coloring may turn your semen yellow, but natural foods may also have this effect. This is especially common for foods containing sulfur, like garlic, turmeric, onions, and asparagus.
  • Needing to urinate. Semen and urine both exit the body through the urethra. If there’s any urine still in the urethra, it may come out with the semen when you ejaculate.
  • Long gaps between ejaculations. Old, unused sperm can cause semen to turn yellow. If it’s been a long time since you last ejaculated, that old sperm can cause a yellow tint to your semen.
  • Smoking. If you’re a smoker, you likely already know the health problems that you may face. One of the less dangerous side effects is that nicotine can turn your semen yellow in the same way it can turn your fingernails and skin yellow.

Some medical conditions may also turn your semen yellow. Some of these conditions can have major health effects. If you suspect that one of these conditions is the cause of your yellow semen, speak to your doctor immediately.

Jaundice. Jaundice is a medical condition in which too much bilirubin builds up in the blood. Bilirubin is a waste by-product of your body breaking down red blood cells. Normally, waste cells are broken down by the liver, but if your liver cannot handle the bilirubin, it builds up in the body. Because bilirubin is yellow, it may also cause a yellow hue in the whites of the eyes, skin, mucus membranes, and semen.

Jaundice is common in newborns as their new bodies struggle to adapt to life outside the womb. In adults, jaundice can occur due to blood diseases, liver diseases, gallbladder conditions, pancreatic tumors, genetic conditions, blocked bile ducts, infections, or medications. 

Prostatitis. Prostatitis refers to a group of syndromes that cause pain and infection in the prostate. Prostatitis has four types: 

  • Acute bacterial prostatitis is a UTI in the prostate gland.
  • Chronic bacterial prostatitis is a recurring UTI caused by bacteria trapped in the prostate gland
  • Chronic pelvic pain syndrome is a chronic pain condition caused by prostate gland inflammation
  • Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis is a type of prostate gland inflammation that causes no symptoms

Because a portion of semen is made in the prostate, if there is an infection in the prostate, your semen may take on a yellow tone.

Pyospermia. Pyospermia is a condition in which there are too many white blood cells in your semen. This can be caused by a wide range of things, like infection, inflammation, illness, autoimmune conditions, and the use of tobacco and alcohol. The high concentration of white blood cells may cause your semen to look yellowish. 

Sexually transmitted diseases. Many different sexually transmitted diseases can cause your semen to take on a yellow tint. The most common include:

  • Chlamydia. Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria. Not everyone experiences symptoms, but those who do may experience pain and discharge.
  • Genital herpes. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus. There’s no cure for herpes infections. Once infected, the virus will lie dormant in your body, reactivating every so often. Most people who have herpes simplex virus don’t have symptoms, but outbreaks can be accompanied by pain, itching, ulcers, scabs, and small red bumps or white blisters.
  • Gonorrhea. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria. Symptoms are also very similar, causing pain and discharge, although not everyone experiences symptoms. 
  • Hepatitis. Hepatitis A, B, and C can all be sexually transmitted, but the transmission of these diseases is not limited to sexual contact. The hepatitis viruses attack the liver, and toxic hepatitis can lead to jaundice and therefore yellow semen.

Treatment for yellow semen will depend on what is causing your yellow semen. Some causes, such as aging, may not need treatment at all. If your treatment is caused by food, medications, or supplements, your semen should return to a normal color after the item you ingested is out of your system.

Other conditions, such as sexually transmitted diseases and other infections, may require treatment with antibiotics or antiviral medications.

If you discover your semen has turned yellow, the best course of action is to consider possible causes and look for possible symptoms. If you can’t identify what may be causing the change in color, or if you have accompanying symptoms like pain or discharge, talk with your doctor.