It’s actually a great indicator of what’s going on inside of your body…
Your health is probably one of the last things you’re thinking about when you ejaculate, but the consistency, look and smell of your semen can actually help you keep track of your health. Your finished products only contains up to 10% of sperm. The rest consist of enzymes, vitamin C, calcium, protein, sodium, zinc and fructose sugar, all of which go a long way in telling you what’s going on inside of your body. This is why we’ve decided to give you the low-down on what your semen can say about you, and any warning signs you should be looking out for.
So, what is normal?
Semen is usually a cloudy white or grey fluid with a Kelly-like consistency, and a chlorine-like smell (although this can slightly vary between individuals).
Semen is a complex liquid, usually white or grey in colour, but also sometimes yellowish and has a bleach-like smell due to its content of alkaline substances. These are important to enable the sperms to combat the acidic nature of the female genital tract. Approximately 200 to 500 million sperms are released each ejaculation, but this can also vary.
The average volume of semen produced in a single ejaculation varies from 2 to 5ml, which is roughly a teaspoon of liquid.
A red or brown appearance
If your semen has a red or brown appearance, it’s most likely due to a burst blood vessel and, though undoubtedly worrying, is usually nothing to worry about.
Hematospermia (otherwise known as blood in the semen) is obviously an alarming symptom for any man. However, it’s very rare that there is a serious underlying condition. Common causes include leak of blood from fragile blood vessels within the semen storage areas, which are called the vesicles.
This is completely normal and, within a day or two, your semen should return to its normal colour. Although, if blood continues to appear in your semen for longer than a few days, it may be a result of infection, trauma or (very rarely) cancer, and you should definitely visit your GP or nearest sexual health clinic as soon as you can.
When you should worry
A noticeable yellow or green colour may indicate something sinister, most likely a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
The occurrence of a seminal infection can result in yellow-green semen that looks and smells offensive. Infections should always be investigated by specialists to determine or exclude any underlying causes, and a long course of antibiotics is usually prescribed.
Other symptoms of STIs in men include blisters or sores on the penis, burning during urination, itching and swelling. However, it’s often the case with STIs that they don’t actually present any symptoms, which is why it’s important that you use a condom and visit and have STI checks regularly, even if your ‘downstairs department’ isn’t giving you any reason to worry.
When there’s no semen at all
When a man reaches a sexual climax but does not ejaculate (also known as a dry orgasm), can be very unnerving. In most young men it isn’t a problem, and is simply a result of repeated orgasm, whereby the genitals simply run out of seminal fluid, and therefore no semen is produced.
However, in middle-aged or older men who have undergone prostate surgery, radiotherapy or other treatments in the prostatic area, this could be a sign of retrograde ejaculation.
As men age, seminal fluid volume and the power of ejaculation can fall as the prostate gland slowly enlarges, causing a change in passing urine due to obstruction. Men can be prescribed drugs to alleviate urinary obstruction however, they can reduce the power of ejaculation and in some circumstances alter ejaculation so that semen is not expressed through the penis but back into the bladder. This is known as retrograde ejaculation.
It may sound drastic, but it’s pretty much down to a realignment of ‘male plumbing’ if you will, and shouldn’t cause any damage. The only change you’ll notice (apart from the obvious lack of ejaculation) is that your urine will appear cloudy, and climaxes may not feel as intense.
When it comes to semen, you’re your best judge. If you have a gut feeling that things aren’t quite right, chances are they probably aren’t. If you have any concerns whatsoever, you should certainly go and see your GP.
How your lifestyle can affect your sperm
The ‘you are what you eat / drink / smoke’ expression really does ring true when it comes to your semen. A 2014 studio, published on Fertility and Sterility, revealed that men whose overall health scored lowest were more likely to have lower levels of semen and sperm quality.
Men continue to produce semen into old age and can remain fertile provided testicular sperm production continues. However, excess alcohol and smoking can damage sperm production, causing men to become less fertile. Obesity can also cause problems as obese men produce more oestrogens from fat, inhibiting sperm production. Steroid usage as part of excessive exercise plans can also produce sperm activity.