Think about the last time you had an orgasm: did you look at the byproduct afterwards? Probably not, right? It went right on the Kleenex (or baby wipe, or towel, or whatever you had handy at the time) and right into the garbage can
But Miami-based urologist Dr. Daniel Martinez, says that the next time you partake in some solo self-love, it might be worth taking a second before you clean up to check out your semen — specifically, its colour and consistency. Why? “The quality of a man’s semen is a glimpse into his overall health,” says Martinez.
For the record, normal semen has a cloudy, white colour and a slightly viscous, egg white-like consistency, says Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, a urologic surgeon and co-director of The PUR Clinic. “If there’s a change just once, it’s probably nothing to freak out about,” says Dr. Brahmbhatt. But if it doesn’t go away after ejaculating two or three more times, give your doctor a call.
In addition to certain health conditions, some foods and medications can have an impact on the colour, consistency, and even volume of your semen. Here are some of the most common causes of semen color changes, plus what you should do about them.
MEDICATIONS OR SUPPLEMENTS
Consuming something that has an intense color can sometimes tint your urine — and it can do the same to your semen, too.
B vitamins and pyridium (a pain reliever for urinary tract infections) can turn your semen a yellow or orange hue, Dr. Brahmbhatt says. Rifampin, an antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis, produces a similar effect. Laxatives like senna can also turn your semen a reddish colour, while metronizadole (another antibiotic) can create a brownish, tea-like hue.
Even though it might look crazy, it’s usually not serious: the colors are usually just the result of byproducts of the meds being broken down by your body, Dr. Brahmbatt says. If it bothers you, just steer clear of the supplements that have an impact, or ask your doctor about changing prescriptions.
CERTAIN FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Some brightly colored foods can have an effect on your semen color as well: for instance, rhubarb or beets could give your semen a pink or reddish tinge (paging Dwight Schrute…).
Of course, if your semen is tinged pink or red, it’s possible that you could have hematospermia, or blood in your sperm. While this is undoubtedly frightening, it’s usually not serious (though you should definitely get checked out by a doctor to make sure).
A SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTION (STI)
If your semen is red or reddish-brown, it’s possible that you might have a sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia, herpes, or gonorrhea. Infections can irritate the lining of your urinary tract, prostate, or testicles, which can cause bleeding, creating red streaks or a reddish brown tint, Dr. Brahmbhatt explains.
There’s also a chance that bacteria or a virus from an infection could give your semen a greenish tint or foul smell. Usually, greenish semen indicates a prostate infection—but it’s pretty rare. “In my 10 years as a urologist I’ve never seen this,” Dr. Brahmbhatt says. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.”
Either way, you should call the doctor as soon as possible if you suspect that you have an infection.
RELATED: How To Make Your Semen Taste Better
Jaundice results from excessive levels of bilirubin, a chemical that builds up in your body when the liver can’t process red blood cells efficiently. It can turn your skin and the whites of your eyes yellow., and it can do the same to your semen, too, Dr. Brahmbhatt says.
Jaundice can be caused by hepatitis, gallstones, pancreatitis, or even gallbladder cancer. It’s usually accompanied by like fever, chills, or abdominal pain, so if you notice any symptoms like these, you should call your doctor. He may order a urine test to check your bilirubin levels. If they’re high, he’ll recommend treatment for the underlying problem that’s causing your jaundice.
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health