The present studies were designed to explore the relationship between the swelling-related changes of the collagen—cell (keratocyte) matrix of the corneal stroma, and the integrity of the cells. From recent postmortem eyes of adult cattle, complete stroma preparations were dissected out and allowed to swell in solution (free swelling) or enclosed within a 12 kDa cut-off dialysis membrane with or without spacers. The swelling was at 4 °C with either water, a hypotonic phosphate-buffered saline (PBS, pH 7.0), a hypotonic mixed salt (MS) solution (pH 7.5), or an isotonic mixed salt solution with glucose (pH 7.5). Measures of tissue wet mass and thickness and analyses of the soluble protein, LDH and ALDH activity in the solutions were made. The relative swelling of the stroma preparations was greatest in water (to 624% of the original wet mass) > dilute PBS (to 404%) > dilute MS (to 381%) > MS with glucose (to 356%). The relative swelling was in the same order, but slightly less if the stroma preparations were enclosed in a dialysis tube with spacers, and substantially reduced when enclosed in a dialysis bag without spacers. With the use of hypotonic solutions, substantial quantities of proteinaceous material and enzyme activity were lost from the preparations, with the loss being proportional to the extent of swelling (p<0.001). Swelling of an isolated corneal stroma, especially in hypotonic solutions, is associated with substantial loss of soluble protein and cytoplasmic enzyme activities, and so these solutions must be considered as cytotoxic to the keratocytes.