Background: Data on causes of vision impairment and blindness are important for development of public health policies, but comprehensive analysis of change in prevalence over time is lacking. Methods: We did a systematic analysis of published and unpublished data on the causes of blindness (visual acuity in the better eye less than 3/60) and moderate and severe vision impairment ([MSVI] visual acuity in the better eye less than 6/18 but at least 3/60) from 1980 to 2012. We estimated the proportions of overall vision impairment attributable to cataract, glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, trachoma, and uncorrected refractive error in 1990-2010 by age, geographical region, and year. Findings: In 2010, 65% (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 61-68) of 32·4 million blind people and 76% (73-79) of 191 million people with MSVI worldwide had a preventable or treatable cause, compared with 68% (95% UI 65-70) of 31·8 million and 80% (78-83) of 172 million in 1990. Leading causes worldwide in 1990 and 2010 for blindness were cataract (39% and 33%, respectively), uncorrected refractive error (20% and 21%), and macular degeneration (5% and 7%), and for MSVI were uncorrected refractive error (51% and 53%), cataract (26% and 18%), and macular degeneration (2% and 3%). Causes of blindness varied substantially by region. Worldwide and in all regions more women than men were blind or had MSVI due to cataract and macular degeneration. Interpretation: The differences and temporal changes we found in causes of blindness and MSVI have implications for planning and resource allocation in eye care. Funding: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Fight for Sight, Fred Hollows Foundation, and Brien Holden Vision Institute.