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What Are the Common Causes of Brown Semen?

By Jae Jones
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are several common causes of brown semen, most of them relatively benign. Most of the time, it's caused by blood in the semen, particularly older blood that's been in the testicular area for some time. This is often caused by trauma to the testicles, but can be due to other conditions, including infections. Certain dietary habits can also cause discolored semen. Rarely, brown semen is indicative of a more significant issue, like testicular cancer.

Trauma

Having blood in the semen, also known as hematospermia or hemospermia, is one of the most common causes of brown semen. It's most often the result of trauma to the testicles or prostate, but can also happen because of a medical condition. Activities that put pressure on the testicles, such as bicycle or horseback riding may cause trauma, as can strenuous sexual activity, straining to ejaculate, or injuries. It can also be the result of medical procedures such as a vasectomy or prostate biopsy.

As long as there's no other apparent injury or intense pain, hematospermia is usually not serious, and often clears up on its own in a few days. To help relieve pain and promote healing, a man should use ice, anti-inflammatory medications, or painkillers as appropriate. He should also avoid strenuous activity, and see a healthcare professional if the discoloration remains after a week or two.

Infections and Medical Conditions

Infections of the prostate, urethra, or seminal vesicles sometimes cause hematospermia. A number of bacterial infections, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like chlamydia or gonorrhea can have this effect. Men who have these infections might also notice a foul odor with the discharge. Besides infections, obstructions of any of the reproductive ducts can cause bleeding, as can conditions like an enlarged prostate gland, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), leukemia, and hypertension.

Men who think they might have an infection should see a healthcare professional, since they likely will need an antibiotic. They should not have sex until they're totally well to avoid passing on the infection to a partner. Those who think they may have brown semen because of another underlying medical condition should also see a medical professional to get a clear diagnosis and rule out the possibility of other health problems. This is particularly important for older men, since they are more prone to prostate problems.

Diet

Another factor may affect the color of semen is diet. Some men who eat a high protein diet, such as that for bodybuilding, for a long time get brown streaks in their semen. Taking very high levels of B vitamins can have a similar effect. Additionally, eating lots of spicy foods or consuming lots of caffeine or alcohol can irritate the prostate gland, which can lead to bleeding. In most cases, changing the diet resolves the discoloration.

Tumors

In rare cases, brown semen can be caused by tumors or polyps in the reproductive system. Sometimes the growths are benign, as in the case of benign prostatic hypertrophy, but in other instances, discolored semen can indicate cancer in the prostate, testicles, or bladder. Older men are most at risk for these types of tumors, as are those who are Caucasian and those who smoke or have an undescended testicle.

If a man is diagnosed with a growth, a medical professional will first do further tests to determine if it is cancerous. Sometimes, benign polyps or tumors can develop in the reproductive organs or ducts. In cases where the growths turn out to be cancerous, a man can discuss the best course of action, such as radiation or chemotherapy, with his healthcare provider.

Semen is the fluid released from the penis that contains sperm. Analysis revealed that semen is composed of sperm cells, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. The composition and consistency of semen play a crucial role in the reproductive health of males. Seminal vesicles (glands) near the urinary bladder are responsible for the release of semen. 

Composition of Semen 

The components of semen include micronutrients such as citric acid, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. The seminal vesicles also add chemicals such as acid phosphatases, citric acid, and ascorbic acid, and sugars such as fructose. You can also find enzymes and antioxidants in a semen sample.

All of the different components of semen are responsible for its color. Changes in the composition manifest as changes in color.

Normal Color of Semen

The typical color of semen is cloudy white. The consistency of normal semen is jelly-like. Color changes might be indicative of underlying health problems. These health issues can be harmful and some issues might require medical attention.

Common Causes of Brown-Colored Semen

There are several common causes of brown semen; most of them are relatively benign. 

Most of the time, blood in semen can be a reason for color changes, particularly older blood that's been in the testicular area for some time. This is often caused by trauma to the testicles but can be due to other conditions, including infections. Certain dietary habits can also cause discolored semen. Rarely, brown semen is indicative of a more significant issue, like testicular cancer.

The most frequent causes of brown-colored semen are listed below.

Trauma

Having blood in semen, also known as hematospermia or hemospermia, is one of the most common causes of brown semen. According to research, hematospermia accounts for 1% of all urinary tract-related issues. For patients below age 40, hematospermia is usually the result of a urogenital tract infection. However, for older patients, urogenital malignant disorders can also be the cause. 

Brown semen is most often the result of trauma to the testicles or prostate but can also happen because of a medical condition. Activities that exert pressure on the testicles, such as bicycle or horseback riding, might cause trauma, as can strenuous sexual activity, straining to ejaculate, or injuries. It can also be the result of medical procedures such as a vasectomy or prostate biopsy.

As long as there's no other apparent injury or intense pain, hematospermia is usually not serious and often clears up on its own in a few days. To help relieve pain and promote healing, a man should use ice, anti-inflammatory medications, or painkillers as appropriate. He should also avoid strenuous activity and see a healthcare professional if the discoloration remains after a week or two.

Spinal Cord Injury

Research suggested that injury to the spinal cord can lead to changes in the parameters of semen. Abnormalities induced in semen due to injury include ejaculatory failure and changed semen characteristics.

Brown semen was present in subjects of a study who had a spinal cord injury. The brown specimens had red blood cells and heme pigments in them. Heme pigments are the result of red blood cells breaking down as a response to injury. 

Infections and Medical Conditions

Infections of the prostate, urethra, or seminal vesicles sometimes cause hematospermia. Some bacterial infections, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like chlamydia or gonorrhea, can have this effect. Men who have these infections might also notice a foul odor with the discharge. 

According to a meta-analysis, chronic inflammation of the prostate gland due to bacterial infection negatively affects the semen volume and sperm concentration.

Besides infections, obstructions of any of the reproductive ducts can cause bleeding, as can conditions like an enlarged prostate gland, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), leukemia, and hypertension.

Men who think they might have an infection should see a health care professional since they likely will need an antibiotic. They should not have sex until they are entirely well to avoid passing on the infection to a partner. 

Men who think they might have brown semen because of another underlying medical condition should see a medical professional to get a clear diagnosis and rule out the possibility of other health problems. This is particularly important for older men since they are more prone to prostate problems.

Diet

Another factor that might affect the color of semen is diet. Some men who eat a high-protein diet, such as that for bodybuilding, for a long time, get brown streaks in their semen. The use of protein supplements might change the color of semen but is not linked to any changes in sperm parameters

Taking high levels of B vitamins can have a similar effect. Research suggested that vitamin B12 is essential for a healthy sperm count. However, excessive intake should be avoided.

Additionally, eating lots of spicy foods or consuming lots of caffeine or alcohol can irritate the prostate gland, which can lead to bleeding. In most cases, changing the diet resolves the discoloration.

Tumors

In rare cases, brown semen can be caused by tumors or polyps in the reproductive system. Sometimes the growths are benign, as in the case of benign prostatic hypertrophy, but in other instances, discolored semen can indicate cancer in the prostate, testicles, or bladder. Older men are most at risk for these types of tumors, as are those who are Caucasian and those who smoke or have an undescended testicle.

If a man is diagnosed with a growth, a medical professional will first do further tests to determine if it is cancerous. Sometimes, benign polyps or tumors can develop in the reproductive organs or ducts. In cases where the growths turn out to be cancerous, a man can discuss the best course of action, such as radiation or chemotherapy, with his health care provider.

Heavy Metals in the Blood

Another cause of brown-colored semen is the presence of heavy metals in the body. Metallic elements such as zinc, copper, and manganese are naturally present in semen. Excessive metals in the body can cause excess metals in semen as well. A study found that dark or brown-colored semen has a link to heavy metals in the seminal (gland) cells.

Heavy metal poisoning is usually the result of drinking water containing industrial waste. Ingestion of polluted water, certain medicines, and lead-based paints can also contribute to metal poisoning.

Prostate Surgery or Biopsy

Blood can enter the urinary tract and the ejaculatory ducts during a surgical procedure. Prostate surgery or biopsy might introduce blood into the ducts. The color of semen can become reddish or brown when blood mixes with it. According to a study, urogenital instrumentation and prostate biopsy are the most common causes of blood in semen. 

Viscosity Changes in Semen

Sometimes, men might notice changes in the texture and viscosity of their semen. Texture changes are based on factors like dietary habits, alcohol consumption, lifestyle, and drug abuse. 

Thick Semen 

Thick semen can be the outcome of temporary dehydration. Hormonal imbalances and genital tract infections can also contribute to thickening of semen. The condition might not be harmful unless there is associated pain or discomfort.

Watery Semen

You might get watery semen due to frequent ejaculation. Pre-ejaculation can also cause semen to be watery. Other reasons include low sperm count and zinc deficiency.

When Should You Visit a Doctor for Brown Semen?

In most cases, the causes of brown-colored semen are mild and resolve on their own. However, you should consult a doctor if there is a foul odor associated with the color change in the semen. 

Hematospermia usually resolves on its own. You should visit a health care center if you have prolonged, non-resolving hematospermia. Men who have associated difficulty in urination or swelling in the prostate region should see a doctor.

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Discussion Comments

By anon994944 — On Mar 19, 2016

My husband noticed his semen is brownish in color. He will be 70 this year. Should he seek medical advice?

By anon993363 — On Nov 08, 2015

I am 70 and noticed recently that my semen had turned brown. I recently had 'a stroke' (no 'pun intended) and am on various medications - could this be the cause? I have no pain of any kind, and I was fortunate that the effects of the stroke did not progress beyond my head. It was quite a shock as I have always kept very fit and have a healthy diet. However it would seem I have a naturally have high level of cholesterol which I was unaware of. Your comments would be much appreciated.

By anon990794 — On May 10, 2015

I recently had a 30 day supply of Citalopram and it was impossible to ejaculate while I was taking it. I stopped taking it and although my ejaculation ability came back, the semen is dark and thick.

I plan to watch it for a couple of weeks and if it does not clear up. I will seek medical advice.

By anon990006 — On Apr 01, 2015

I had an ejaculation of brown semen last night after masturbation. It was a bit of a strain because I am over 70. Reading the above comments suggests I am doing the right thing in contacting my specialist. It's probably nothing but it might be something.

By anon984432 — On Jan 08, 2015

Mine was white all through high school. Somewhere in my twenties it slowly turned darker over a period of years. Somewhat like the brown color of a brown eggshell. It also became coagulated or lumpy. It has been like this for 15 years. Being slightly hypochondriac-ish, this website makes me think I should see a specialist.

By anon951072 — On May 13, 2014

Taking aspirin daily may be a consideration as to the cause of dark semen. It has been determined that aspirin causes internal bleeding. If you have no heart problems, stop the aspirin and see if it clears up.

By anon350067 — On Oct 01, 2013

I'm a paraplegic and have been getting brown semen ever since I started masturbating. My doctors have been useless. There is more information here than they have. I don't know what to do about it. I am wondering if it's because I intermittently catheterise myself.

By anon296995 — On Oct 14, 2012

Thanks to this site, I have stopped worrying. I woke up with brown coloured semen. I was was scared, so I looked on here and it told me everything I needed to know.

By KaBoom — On Sep 12, 2011

@indemnifyme - That's interesting about the B vitamins. I doubt the men with this problem are amused though!

Most men I know hate going to the doctor. In fact, I think the only thing that could get some men in to see a doctor is a problem in their um, sensitive area. It sounds like most of the causes of brown semen are luckily pretty harmless, but I think it's always a good idea to check with a doctor just in case.

By indemnifyme — On Sep 11, 2011

I think it's interesting that B vitamins cause brown semen, because they are also known to turn urine bright yellow! I imagine for a man it must be disconcerting to experience brown semen along with neon yellow colored urine.

I bet doctors see plenty of confused and panicked men every year that don't actually have anything wrong with them! That is really funny.

By wander — On Sep 11, 2011

I stopped getting brown semen after I drastically cut down the amount of protein I was eating. I was trying a low-carbohydrate diet and was eating way more meat than normally. After a few weeks of this

I noticed a strange discoloration in my semen. It freaked me out a bit, so it was reassuring to learn that it was just from too much of one kind of food.

My doctor got me off the low-carbohydrate diet and onto a more balanced meal plan and I am happy to report that things are back to normal. I guess it just goes to show that too much of a good thing can be bad for you.

By MrSmirnov — On Sep 10, 2011

My son recently confessed that he had brown semen after a rough hit during a soccer game. He was quite worried that he had damaged himself forever or was dying. I took him to the doctor's office and all they did was give him some pain killers for the residual ache and told us not to worry about the discoloration in his semen.

Apparently when you bleed a bit, it discolors your semen, but generally goes away on its own if it is just from rough contact. They just told us to come back in a few days if it hadn't gone away or had gotten worse. I guess the problem fixed itself.

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